FDNY Chiefs File Lawsuit Against Commissioner, Allege “Ageism”

By Hamodia Staff


Three high-ranking FDNY chiefs are suing the city, and its Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, alleging that they were insulted and harassed by the commissioner because of their age, according to the Daily News.

Joe Jardin, 61, Michael Gala, 62, and Michael Massucci, 59, say in the lawsuit that they were mistreated “because they were at or near the age of 60,″ with Jardin and Gala being demoted by Kavanagh. Massucci and other chiefs requested to be demoted in a show of solidarity with the three, as well as in protest of Kavanagh, who has yet to fulfill that request.

The lawsuit aims to make the city reinstate those who were demoted to their previous positions, and to pay a certain amount of monetary compensation for damages.

The FDNY responded on Friday, saying that the suit was “seemingly just an attempt to undermine the authority of the Fire Commissioner,” and that “these allegations are baseless.”

Kavanagh, 40, is one of the city’s youngest commissioners.

In February, Jardin, Gala, and a third assistant chief, Fred Schaaf, were demoted to deputy chief by Kavanagh. A large protest by FDNY chiefs ensued, with Kavanagh asking for time to “right the ship,” before granting demotion requests from Massucci and other chiefs.

The suit alleges that Kavanagh and FDNY Deputy Commissioner JonPaul Augier attempted to force the older chiefs “off medical leave” and threatened to “withhold earned or customary benefits.” They also “cut off their computer access” and “leaked false information about them to the press.”

The actions were attempts at forcing out the older chiefs, the suit says.

“When these methods failed (Kavanagh’s) intended result — bullying seniors into retirement — she resorted to more brutal means, such as demotions, humiliating reassignments, and public disparagement,” the suit says.

The suit also says that Kavanagh demanded “undefined and unquantified ‘out-of-the-box thinking,’ ‘fresh ideas,’ and decrying ‘old thinking’” were “all classic hallmarks of ageist language.”

“This case is about one thing: the safety of the public and valiant firefighters of the New York City Fire Department,” the lawsuit said.

The chiefs’ attorney, Jim Walden, asked Brooklyn Federal Judge Rachel Kovner for a temporary stay, to reinstate the chiefs, but his bid was refused, with the judge saying that there was insufficient evidence that their not being assistant chiefs would endanger lives, as the plaintiffs said.

Kavanagh’s team, should the lawsuit go to trial, is expected to point to her hiring of retired 67-year-old 9/11 hero Joseph Pfeifer as deputy commissioner.

But Walden was quick to counter this argument. “We are well past the point of believing the defense of, ‘I am not racist against X because I have X friends,’” he told the Daily News. “Hiring Pfeifer proves nothing. The detailed allegations of the complaint say it all.”

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