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Prison guard says he was fired for Black Lives Matter shirt

December 3, 2020 GMT

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A newly hired-and-fired correctional officer is suing Washington’s Department of Corrections, saying he lost his job because he wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt to work.

Enow-Tambong Agbor-Baiyee was hired to work as an on-call guard at Airway Heights Corrections Center in Spokane County back in May, The Seattle Times reported.

But he said in a federal lawsuit filed last week that during a six-week training program, an instructor and other trainees wore shirts that said “Police Lives Matter.” In response, Agbor-Baiyee, who is Black, first objected in writing and eventually wore one that said “Black Lives Matter.”

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While no one from the Department of Corrections had objected to the shirts that said “Police Lives Matter,” the lawsuit said a supervisor immediately pulled Agbor-Baiyee aside and told him his attire was “inappropriate and ‘inciting’” and that he couldn’t wear it to class.

The next day, instructors told the trainee class that employees and trainees could no longer wear shirts with any text or logos, and the following week, Agbor-Baiyee was fired. He said he was told he “was not a fit for DOC and causing a lot of problems” but not given any specifics.

Susan Biller, a DOC spokeswoman, confirmed Agbor-Baiyee’s brief employment, but said in an email the department does not comment on pending litigation.

The wrongful termination lawsuit seeks back pay and reinstatement to his job, or pay and benefits in lieu of reinstatement.