The City of Petaluma has agreed to settle a sexual harassment suit brought by a female firefighter for $1.25 million.
Andrea Waters filed suit in 2014 in Sonoma County Superior Court accusing colleagues and superiors of creating a sexually hostile work environment and retaliating against her when she complained.
Waters claimed she was treated as a second-class citizen, denied the opportunity to work shift trades, forced to share shower and sleeping quarters with male firefighters, “hyper-scrutinized” and subjected to fabricated criticisms. The problems worsened once she complained, leading her to resign in May, 2014.
The settlement announcement last week sparked an exchange of contradictory media statements by the city and Waters’ legal team. Petaluma City Attorney Eric Danly, expressed regret that Waters resigned before allowing the city the opportunity to address her claims. “Given the chance, we would’ve absolutely done that. It’s a shame that so much public money was expended when it’s needed for core services, so it’s good to move beyond the case.” He called the settlement a “kind of a business decision” and referred to an outside investigation of the case that concluded Waters’ allegations were “without merit.”
In response, Waters’ attorney Mat Stephenson, was quoted by The Press Democrat as saying:
- “The entire thing just seems like the city hasn’t learned from this experience”
- “The idea that they paid $1.25 million basically … (because) it would be an inconvenience”
- “Not only did she tell them, but other officers told superior officers what was going on, and they had a group of old guard Neanderthal officers that not only ignored it, but celebrated it”