Florida Firefighter Sues for Sexual Discrimination

A firefighter-paramedic in Kissimmee, Florida who was terminated in October 2013, has filed suit claiming she was the victim of sexual discrimination and retaliation under state and federal law.

Melanie Jerozal filed suit last week in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She was terminated just five months after she had been hired, and claims it was “because of her gender, and because she engaged in a protected activity.”

The 8 page complaint includes four counts: discrimination under state and federal law, and retaliation under state and federal law.

  • Plaintiff was the only female firefighter/paramedic on B shift at Station 13.
  • Plaintiffs preceptor, Daniel Hayslip, engaged in a pattern and practice of gender discrimination he hoped would force Plaintiff to quit.
  • Because she refused to quit, Defendant fired Plaintiff because of her gender and because she engaged in multiple instances of protected activity.
  • Hayslip, who as Plaintiffs “precept” was supposed to be Plaintiffs mentor, told other male firefighters that he hoped “Plaintiff would fail,” and also stated that “ever since she’s come to the station it has not been the same.”
  • Hayslip also consistently gave Plaintiff unwarranted low evaluations to ensure she would not pass certain tests.
  • Plaintiff reported Mr. Hayslip’s discriminatory behavior and comments to Defendant, including to Lieutenant Gentry.
  • After she reported the gender discrimination to which she was subjected, Plaintiff was warned by Defendant not to keep pressing the issue because Defendant wanted to keep her complaints regarding gender discrimination “in house.”
  • Once Mr. Hayslip learned that Plaintiff had reported Mr. Hayslip’s illegal and discriminatory conduct to Defendant, Mr. Hayslip began retaliating against Plaintiff, including by giving her failing grades on certain activities he was responsible for evaluating her on.
  • On September 19, 2013 Mr. Hayslip belittled Plaintiff for unwarranted reasons in front of another fire crew.
  • Plaintiff again complained to Defendant about Mr. Hayslip. Plaintiff was again warned by Defendant to “drop it.”
  • Eventually, on about October 10, 2013 Defendant terminated Plaintiff because of her gender, and because she engaged in a protected activity.
  • Defendant’s reasons for Plaintiffs illegal termination are pretextual.

The complaint seeks damages for lost wages, benefits, and emotional distress, as well as reinstatement, punitive damages, and a restraining order against continuing violations of state and federal discrimination laws.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Jerozal v Kissimmee

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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