A rookie firefighter in Detroit lost his job in record time after he brought a watermelon with him as a gift when he went to introduce himself to his future colleagues – only to discover that the firehouse was predominately staffed by African-American firefighters.
Robert Pattison, 41, opted to take part in a traditional meet-and-greet at Engine 55, an event that typically sees new recruits show up with a tasty food item in tow, WJBK reported.
“It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary,” said Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty. “You come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts, but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.”
Instead of going the carb-laden route, though, Pattison decided to keep it relatively healthy and bring a watermelon. The gift immediately offended multiple firefighters at Engine 55, where 90 percent of the staff is black, and led to Pattison receiving a pink slip within days.
“There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department,” said Fire Commissioner Eric Jones 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 the 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,” the statement concluded.
Pattison insists that the watermelon was not meant to be taken as a joke and he certainly had no intention of offending his colleagues. Other firefighters believe that Pattison knew exactly what he was doing.
“When you get your first detail at a firehouse you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into,” said Patrick Trout. “So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”