California FD sued for Sexual Harassment

A California fire department is facing a sexual harassment suit filed by a female firefighter who claims that she was driven from the department due to a hostile workplace.

Andrea Waters filed suit against the City of Petaluma alleging she was subjected to a hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation. Waters, who was hired in 2008, resigned on May 23, 2014, sparking news articles that publically revealed some of her allegations.

The complaint [which I have yet to personally review] claims Waters was:

  • treated as a second-class citizen
  • denied training opportunities available to male firefighters
  • held to different standards than male firefighters
  • singled out and criticized for her performance
  • hyper-scrutinized to the point that criticisms about her performance were fabricated
  • subjected to living conditions in the fire house that lacked basic privacy permitting male firefighter to observe her in states of undress
  • subjected to inappropriate comments from the male firefighters who observed her undressed
  • denied the opportunity to trade work shifts due to the living conditions and lack of privacy
  • subjected to retaliation when she complained about the harassment

The suit was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court. Waters is seeking damages for humiliation, mental anguish, emotional and physical distress, and lost wages and benefits.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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