National

How a watermelon cost a probationary firefighter his job

Watermelons are displayed for sale at a farmers market. A probationary firefighter in Detroit was fired after bringing a watermelon as an introductory present.
Watermelons are displayed for sale at a farmers market. A probationary firefighter in Detroit was fired after bringing a watermelon as an introductory present. The Associated Press

A watermelon is a sweet, juicy fruit that is often found at backyard barbecues or in a child’s school lunch.

In one U.S. city, however, apparently it’s also grounds for termination.

A probationary firefighter in Detroit was fired after bringing a watermelon to the firehouse as an introductory present, WJBK-TV reports.

Robert Pattison brought a large watermelon with a pink ribbon attached to a ceremony a second battalion chief calls a tradition.

“It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary,” Shawn McCarty told Detroit’s Fox affiliate. “You come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts, but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.”

WJBK reports that the employees of Engine 55, where 90 percent of the firefighters are black, were offended by Pattison’s gesture.

Pattison, who told the station the gift was not a joke or an attempt to be offensive, was fired.

“There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department,” Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said in a statement. “On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department.

“After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.”

On Tuesday, WJBK reported that the terminated employee received some support from black firefighters.

“Just want to let everyone know he’s a real amazing dude and it was all good intentions,” firefighter Tadarius Spearman wrote on a social media post. “And our ENTIRE class (is) supporting him in this. Especially us AFRICAN AMERICANS and that’s all that needs to be said. Stay up brother.”

  Comments