The City of Winston-Salem and Fire Chief William “Trey” Mayo have responded to a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by a group of current and former firefighters, saying the case should be dismissed.

The group of Black firefighters known as OMNIBUS filed the lawsuit in February, arguing they faced tougher standards than their white co-workers and could be shunned if they complained. They also say a white senior member of the department used the "n-word" in the station.

In a response filed last week, the defendants argue that the complaint made by the firefighters did not provide enough facts to back up the lawsuit's claim that any unequal treatment was the result of racial discrimination.

Mayo also argues that parts of the lawsuit don't involve him.

Also in question is whether plaintiff Thomas Penn should be allowed to sue the city. The city's response argues he should be barred from doing so because he had already sued the city for discrimination in 2018. That case was ultimately settled.

The firefighters say discrimination in the department has gone on for years. Among their demands is that Chief Mayo be fired.

The OMNIBUS group filed a grievance against the city last year. That led to a study of the culture of the department that determined there had been problems. It included a widespread perception that the severity of discipline is dependent upon race.  

But the study ultimately concluded that the fire department did not have a racist culture.


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