Monday, January 23, 2012

Carlsbad Fire Dept. female firefighter charging emotional distress, sexual harassment

 EXCLUSIVE: Carlsbad's first female firefighter sues, charging sex discrimination

The complaint, filed in December, says Brittany McMahon, 28, was the victim of an "old boys' club" mentality that pervades fire departments.
She was forced to resign in December 2010, a few weeks before her probationary period would have ended, the lawsuit said.
"Unfortunately, despite her successes (at the Carlsbad Fire Department), the presence of a female in the male-dominated field of firefighters was not widely accepted by the people with whom she worked," the lawsuit states.
Supervisors put her through extreme physical tests that went beyond state-issued recommendations and what was asked of her male counterparts. But McMahon met all of the physical demands, the lawsuit states.
McMahon is 6 feet tall and was a champion rower for San Diego State University, according to the university's website.
Officials with the Carlsbad city attorney's office declined to comment on the matter.
The lawsuit did not say how much money McMahon is seeking in damages, but a claim filed against the city before the lawsuit asked for more than $2 million.
McMahon's attorney, Matthew E. Palmer of the Oceanside-based firm Palmer, Rodak & Associates, said that was in line with awards in similar cases in California.
Palmer said McMahon had long dreamed of becoming a firefighter and put in the hard work to make it happen.
"She was just devastated," he said. "This was her whole life."
McMahon joined the Carlsbad Fire Department in January 2010. She said she was forced to sign a letter of resignation Dec. 30, 2010, about three weeks before her probationary period would have ended.
During her time there, a co-worker stopped her while she was on her way to the shower at a station and asked whether he could "help" her. The same co-worker grabbed one of the back belt loops on her pants and tugged her toward him, prompting another firefighter to ask whether the two were sleeping together, the lawsuit said.
A supervisor ordered her to do strenuous exercise for two hours, then had her carry 150 feet of wet hose, when the state recommends firefighters shouldn't carry more than 100 feet at a time, the lawsuit said.
And during an annual online bidding process, when firefighters choose which station they want to work, firefighters mocked McMahon in a chat room because of her gender, the lawsuit said.
"When it was McMahon's turn to bid, she bid on Station 2, which is a smaller fire station with a unisex bathroom," the lawsuit states. "As soon as she bid, the chat room was flooded with comments about tampons, hair accessories and other comments about a woman in the bathroom."
The lawsuit also says McMahon and other probationary firefighters were subjected to hazing, but Palmer said that he plans to drop those charges.
"Brittany's real fight is with gender discrimination and making sure that solid firefighters don't lose their jobs because men don't want women in the house," Palmer said.
She was also seeking damages for emotional distress, saying her time at the Carlsbad Fire Department caused her to develop an anxiety disorder, for which she is taking medication.
Palmer said McMahon is now working as a paramedic, making less money, elsewhere in California.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    - Due to rampant abuse, we are no longer posting anonymous comments. Please use your real OpenID, Google, Yahoo, AIM, Twitter, Flickr name.

    Twitter Buttons

    ****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.

    "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." --Abraham Lincoln

    View blog top tags

    Subscribe via email to California Fire News - Keep track of Cal Fire News

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner