Former Albemarle firefighters sue city, allege wrongful termination

Published 3:38 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

Albemarle City Council is being sued by two former firefighters alleging wrongful termination.

A lawsuit was brought by plaintiffs William David Furr, a former captain of the Albemarle fire department, and Summer Lynn Jordan, a firefighter, claiming wrongful termination against the city and Fire Chief T. Pierre Brewton.

According to the suit, Furr worked for Albemarle Fire Department for 20-plus years and was a shift leader.

Jordan joined the AFD as a Firefighter I in October 2021 and was just the second woman to be a firefighter in the department’s history.

Furr requested Jordan to join his shift “to alleviate any opportunities for harassment or disrespect because of the honorable group of firefighters that Capt. Furr led,” the suit read.

Jordan insisted that she “did not want special treatment” and wanted “to be treated with respect.”

The suit said the pair’s work relationship “was cordial, respectful, and professional” and that neither had ever “been reported, reprimanded or disciplined by AFD.”

In January 2022, both were investigated by Albemarle Police regarding a series of alleged conversations and events. Jordan was accused of giving Furr a back massage in front of the crew, which the plaintiffs deny.

Furr was accused of “walking around the fire station in his non-department issue athletic mesh shorts.” He was also accused of making an off-color comment regarding a non-functional gas pump.

Furr emailed Brewton and Battalion Chief Patrick Stone to say he was not aware of inappropriate comments. He said “while there was banter between Ms. Jordan and Capt. Furr, such conversations were normal in a firehouse setting.”

Jordan was notified Jan. 27, 2022 she was being investigated for “inappropriate comments and behavior of a sexual nature.”

Both were issued letters Feb. 4, 2022 saying they violated the city’s personnel policies 2.1 and 2.4 for “multiple occasions of inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.” The letters also alleged the plaintiffs “engaged in demeaning, inappropriate, sexist remarks, including jokes, ridicule and slurs.”

Both received termination letters Feb. 10, 2022 for the previous allegations, including “the telling of sexist type jokes.”

The plaintiffs appealed, which were denied despite, according to the allegations in the suit, “no evidence, proof or witnesses of the serious allegations.”

By placing sexual harassment charges, the plaintiffs claim the action “placed a stigma” on their reputations. Furr lost his other job, a full-time position with another fire department, “as a result of the wrongful termination,” according to the suit.

The suit accuses the defendants of violating the plaintiff’s 14th Amendment right of due process “by publicly disclosing the reasons for the employees’ discharge.”

The plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages plus interest.

“The City does not discuss pending litigation,” Albemarle Public Information Officer David Fath said.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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