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Firefighter loses his job before he officially begins over 'racially insensitive' gift of watermelon

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A Detroit firefighter lost his job before he even started after the gift he provided to his fellow firefighters was considered "racially insensitive."

What happened?

The firefighter, Robert Pattison, was excited to start his new job. Typically, probationary firefighters at the Detroit fire company provide their new co-workers with a gift; a gesture of goodwill.

In this case, it was a watermelon bearing a pink bow.

Detroit's WJBK-TV reported that while doughnuts are typical for a station-warming gift, probationary firefighters are permitted to gift anything they choose.

Why did he lose his job over a watermelon?

According to WJBK, some African-American firefighters were offended by Pattison's choice in gift. Approximately 90 percent of the firefighters in the company are black, WJBK reported.

Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty — who is black — told WJBK that "some people" found the gift racially insensitive, but added that he personally did not feel Pattison should have lost his job over the incident.

"Between what he did and losing his job, there are a few things that could have been done," McCarty said.

Fire Commissioner Eric Jones issued a statement to the public explaining why Pattison lost his job, WJBK reported:

There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. 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 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.

After being fired, Pattison told WJBK that the gift of a watermelon was not a joke, and he had no intentions in offending anyone.

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