California City Settles Discrimination Suit With Fire Chief

The city of Monterey Park, California has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former fire chief who claims she was discriminated against and forced to resign because of her gender and the fact she is gay.

Chief Cathleen Orchard filed suit on April 14, 2011 in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, harassment, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She claims she was wrongfully forced out of her position as fire chief, a position she held since June, 2005. She was hired in 1999 by Monterey Park as a training officer.

Chief Orchard alleges that city officials, including council members, shunned her, attempted to discredit her, and in at least one case berated her in public. She also claims that at her promotional ceremony city council members were “visibly agitated when (Orchard’s) partner was included in the traditional portion of the presentation devoted to spouses.”

The city denied any wrongdoing, pointing to the fact that Chief Orchard was never disciplined, denied a promotion, or transferred to a less desirable job. The city also claimed that most of Orchard’s allegations were time barred because they occurred outside the statute of limitations.

The terms of the settlement have not been released.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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