In LaVallee v. Boston Fire Department, D1-19-059 (Dec. 2019), the Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) upheld the termination of a 14-year firefighter who used the n-word while hanging out in the station off duty. LaVallee, a white firefighter with the BFD, walked into the firehouse in a drunken state and sat down in the station’s TV room where on-duty Firefighter CB (“CB”), a black firefighter, was playing a game and talking to his girlfriend on PlayStation. CB heard LaVallee eating behind him and then heard LaVallee say “you fucking [n-word]” and then he cleared his throat and spat. CB’s girlfriend heard the n-word through the PlayStation headset. CB was outraged and immediately left the room to inform his supervisor of the incident. The BFD investigated and LaValle was terminated.
In its decision upholding the termination, the Commission affirmed its position reached in prior decisions that “racist behavior by a public employee is grounds for termination.” According to the Commission, there is no place for such behavior in the workplace and no modification of the discipline was warranted. LaVallee’s claim that alcoholism was to blame was dismissed by the Commission, which noted that he had already received a second chance in 2011 after using the same language.