Georgia Firefighter Loses Sexual Harassment Suit

A Marietta, Georgia firefighter not only lost her sexual harassment lawsuit, she was ordered to pay the city’s costs in an order handed down last week. Former Lieutenant Margaret Richardson filed suit last year alleging sex discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lt. Richardson claimed she was subjected to a “general atmosphere of hostility where sex-based harassment was tolerated, as well as numerous specific incidents spanning the course of several years, including (1) promotion denials in 2012, January and June of 2015, and 2017; (2) a transfer to the Training Division in 2009; (3) failure to recommend Plaintiff for an award related to her grant work in 2013; and (4) several denials of training requests in 2015 and 2016.” [The Magistrate’s decision below outlines her allegations in more detail.]

US District Court Judge Leigh Martin May accepted the recommendations of Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker to grant summary judgment to the city on all but one of Richardson’s claims, concluding she failed to identify evidence to support her allegations, and/or failed to make a causal connection between her protected conduct and the alleged acts of discrimination.

On the final claim, Judge May departed from Magistrate Walker’s recommendation, ruling that the city successfully established “a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for promoting someone other than Lt. Richardson to Commander in January 2015. Judge May found that a senior lieutenant with 31 years of experience and expansive institutional knowledge of its operations was chosen over Lt. Richardson, and that Lt. Richardson herself admitted he “was selected based on his many years of service and his credentials.”

Last week, Judge May granted an order assessing Lt. Richardson costs amounting to $4,350.32

Here is a copy of the Taxation of Costs order:  Richardson v Marietta COSTS

Here is a copy of Judge May’s ruling: Richardson v Marietta

Here is a copy of Magistrate Walker’s ruling: Richardson v Marietta MAGISTRATE’S RECOMMENDATION

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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