Michigan Fire Officer Alleges Gender Discrimination

A Michigan fire officer is claiming she was discriminated against when she was not made acting fire chief despite having served as interim chief for eighteen months.

Training and Safety Officer Ona Lee Aguilar of the Saginaw Fire Department claims she was offered the job of acting fire chief in August, 2013 by City Manager Darnell Earley. Earley previously appointed Aguilar to be interim chief in February, 2012.

According to attorney Victor Mastromarco, Jr. who represents Aguilar, after Earley offered her the acting position, the firefighter’s union informed her she could not remain a member. Thereafter, the city reneged on the offer and instead reached an agreement with the union that acting chief appointments would be based solely upon rank and seniority. A short time later, Earley appointed another officer, Chris Van Loo, to serve as acting chief. Because of the new arrangement, Van Loo was permitted to remain in the union.

Mastromarco was quoted as saying “The city didn’t want a female fire chief, even though she was completely qualified.” The suit seeks in excess of $25,000 in damages.


More on the story.

ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

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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