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 â€“ 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.
â€śItâ€™s not mandatory, itâ€™s voluntary,â€ť said Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty. â€śYou come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts, but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.â€ť
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.
â€śThere is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department,â€ť said Fire Commissioner Eric Jones in a statement. â€śOn 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.â€ť
â€śAfter a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee,â€ť 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.
â€śWhen you get your first detail at a firehouse you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into,â€ť said Patrick Trout. â€śSo you would have to say it was probably a bad call.â€ť