CLEVELAND — Several Cleveland EMS captains held a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss allegations that the city and EMS commissioner are discriminating against them because they are black.
“I’ve been employed by the city of Cleveland for over 27 years,” said Michael Threat, an EMS captain and one of the plaintiffs of a lawsuit filed in federal district court. “I’ve served the community without flinching. My heart is broken for this to be the topic of discussion at the sunset of my career.”
According to the lawsuit filed by the captains, the discrimination dates back to 2011.
The lawsuit accuses the EMS commissioner of treating the five captains differently than their white coworkers.
News 5 reached out to the city of Cleveland Friday for a comment, but as of 5 p.m. the city had not responded.
“Collectively, the five of us bring over 110 years of service to the city. The commitment and dedication speaks for itself,” Margerita Moore, another EMS captain and plaintiff, said. “People have lost their lives fighting for all of us to have equality and fairness. Now look at us today. We stand here wondering, ‘Why are we being treated like this?’”
Complaints were previously filed with both the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the lawsuit, but the captains said they were retaliated against after bringing up the accusations.
According to the EMS captains, they have been punished for conduct issues such as being late to work or calling in sick, while their white coworkers did not receive the same punishment for the same offenses.
They also claim that the EMS commissioner gave their white coworkers better shifts and rescheduled some of the black captains because too many black people were working together at the same time.
“The contracts allowed for the city of Cleveland to change a number of captains around in their shifts, with the idea in mind that you didn’t want all inexperienced captains working together,” Jared Klebanow, the attorney who held a press conference with the plaintiffs, said. “And unfortunately, the pattern that arose was that African-American captains were being moved to avoid having an all-African-American shift.”
Klebanow said the plaintiffs were looking for the city to “do the right thing.”
“First and foremost, the city needs to address this policy and understand that it’s unacceptable in 2019 and it’s sad that these captains have to file this suit to address something that the civil rights movement has addressed for so long,” Klebanow said. “Along with that, the captains really are looking for the city to institute a policy that supports equality and treats everyone equally.”