An award-winning East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services employee is accusing his superiors of “illegal racial and religious profiling.’’
Jeremy Torres claims in a lawsuit that he was demoted from communications supervisor for an alleged “high-level security breach’’ on Sept. 11, 2010, when a Muslim group made a delivery to the EMS communications center.
Torres’ attorney, Jill Craft, on Tuesday called the city-parish’s actions “appalling’’ and said no security issues were raised when other religious organizations — all Christian — made deliveries to the building weeks prior to Sept. 11, 2010.
Parish Attorney Mary Roper said she could not comment on the pending legal matter.
Torres’ suit states that on Sept. 11, 2010, a Muslim group delivered food and a gift bag to the EMS communications center housed at the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness building.
The group included Islamic Center of North America director Jane Aslam, who regularly visits MOHSEP because she sits on a city-parish emergency preparedness committee, the suit states.
The group was let into the building’s lobby by an emergency communications officer, who left the group unattended for about four minutes to let Torres know who was there, according to the suit filed Friday in Baton Rouge state court.
Torres, the communications supervisor on duty at the time, and another emergency communications officer gathered the dinners from the group and carried them to the EMS office, the suit states.
Torres inspected each bag and found that each contained food and a copy of the Koran, the suit says.
It was determined that the group had not brought enough food to feed everyone in the communications center, and the group’s members indicated they would return with more food, according to the suit.
A second group, which included an Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center physician, came to the center with additional food, the suit says.
Torres met that group outside of the lobby, obtained the food, and the group left without entering the building, the suit states.
Torres received a hearing notice from EMS administrator Pam Porter on Sept. 20, indicating she was considering demoting Torres for letting Muslims into the building, according to the suit.
Following the hearing, which was held eight days later, Torres “became the subject of retaliatory harassment’’ and was “repeatedly threatened with termination,’’ the suit alleges.
Torres received a demotion letter on Oct. 8, effective the next day, the suit says.
“Petitioner contends that identifying the incident as a ‘high level security breach’ is based on illegal racial and religious profiling,’’ the suit states.
Roper issued a brief response Tuesday, saying, “I am aware of the incident and the actions which were taken by Pam Porter as a result of same, but cannot comment any further due to pending litigation.’’
Torres contends there was “no ‘breach’ in security’’ and notes that the group was allowed only into the unsecured lobby, which is open to the public.
Torres is seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages and benefits, and humiliation and embarrassment.
The suit has been assigned to state District Judge Janice Clark.
Torres was honored in January 2009 as EMS Communications Officer of the Year. He previously received paramedic of the year and prison medical services of the year awards.