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Black Fire Chief at Airport Gets His Job Back After ‘Inexcusable’ Racist Termination

Black deputy fire chief Gregory Lawrence will finally get his job back at Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport, after a judge ruled his race was the only reason he was terminated in the first place.

According to administrative law judge Nancy E. Paige, there was no denying the fact that Lawrence was fired for one reason—because he’s Black.

“[It] was more likely than not that the only reason for termination of the Employee was his race,” Paige wrote in her 54-page decision. “I conclude that the Employee would not have been terminated if he were not African-American.”

Paige ordered the agency to not only give Lawrence his job back but to also give him full pay, along with benefits, to compensate for the time he had been out of work.

Lawrence’s annual salary was more than $90,000.

Paige’s decision was release on Thursday by Lawrence and his attorney, who were both relieved that justice had finally been served.

Lawrence, who was the first African-American to be hired as a deputy fire chief at the Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport, was fired back in March due to a “racially inhospitable environment.”

Paige’s decision listed several instances where it seemed evident that higher ups and subordinates were constantly harassing Lawrence.

During one incident, Lawrence’s boots were filled with water and in another incident Paige discovered an email that she could only describe as “remarkable.”

The email, dated back to March of 2011, was sent from then-Chief Woodrow Cullum to the chief operating officer of the Maryland Aviation Administration, Wayne Pennell.

Fire chief fire for being Black The email discussed Lawrence’s concerns that he was being racially discriminated against and the fact that nothing had been done to even address the poor treatment he had been receiving.

Cullum explained that he did not believe all the incidents were “random” acts and that he felt like Lawrence was the target of “hate crimes” within the department.

Three years went by with nobody stepping in to address these concerns.

To make matters worse, Paige found that the department rarely gave promotions to its Black employees, regardless of their work ethic and time with the department.

From the early 1970s to the end of 2013, there had only been six Black firefighters in the department who received promotions and none of them ever made it to the level of captain or higher.

“Shame on them,” said Williams L. Robinson, a professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Robinson has been a champion of equality in the workplace as his arguments before the Supreme Court back in the 1970s actually helped pave the foundation for employment discrimination claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to Robinson, there is no excuse for the airport not being aware of the way Black employees were being treated.

“At this point in the game, all major agencies or municipalities should be well versed at least in the basics of unemployment law,” Robinson added. “It’s frankly inexcusable that a substantial administrative body like the airport would not be aware of what’s going on in its workforce and not have policies to prevent a hostile environment.”

The state will have 30 days to file an appeal, although the appeal will not put any stay on the order to reinstate Lawrence and compensate him for his time away from the department.


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