San Jose Settles Sex Discrimination Suit

The city of San Jose has agreed to settle a sexual discrimination suit brought last year by two female fire captains who claimed they were wrongfully denied promotions.

Captains Debra Ward and Patricia Tapia filed the suit in state court alleging that despite their high scores (Ward came out 1st and Tapia number 8th on the objective portion of the process) the city promoted nine men to battalion chief. The women were graded down during the subjective interview phase.

According to the suit, a number of the males who were selected were close friends of the fire chief and belonged to a Christian firefighter group led by a deputy chief. In addition, they alleged that after they were turned down for the promotion they were asked to train one of the men who was promoted.

The case has been settled for $395,000. Tapia, who also alleged race discrimination based on her Latino heritage, has already been promoted to Battalion Chief.

The settlement is the second sex discrimination suit settled by the city in recent years. Recall in 2009, the city settled with firefighter Julie LaBlanc, whose son came out of a fire station bathroom with a pornographic magazine in hand following a visit. When LeBlanc complained she was harassed by co-workers. Leblanc received a $200,000 settlement.

LeBlanc’s attorney, Angela Alioto, also represented Ward and Tapia. The settlement is expected to be approved by the city council on June 19, 2012.

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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