Black firefighter takes discrimination charge to trial

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A black firefighter in Barberton says be believes that a noose found above his firehouse bed and a bullet placed in his locker are evidence of racial discrimination at his job.

Lawyer John Myers, who represents firefighter Terry Thomas, 38, laid out the firefighter's complaint before jurors in a Summit County courtroom Monday, as Thomas' racial discrimination lawsuit began against the Akron suburb.

Thomas, who remains a Barberton firefighter, is seeking unspecified damages.

Barberton officials deny that Thomas is a victim of discrimination. They acknowledge that pranks may have been played on Thomas, but they say the pranks were the kind that brothers play on each other.

Thomas was the victim of "outrageous threats in the workplace" beginning almost the day he joined the department in 1994, Myers said.

Thomas contends in his suit that the department has "engaged in a pattern of racial harassment and disparate treatment, and has failed to train personnel about workplace discrimination."

Thomas was always the "odd man out" in the 40-person department, Myers told jurors.

Thomas also alleges that he has been denied equal training opportunities and assignments because of his race. Lawyers representing Barberton say an investigation found his allegations had no merit.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)