Idaho Chief Sues Alleging Gender and Age Discrimination

An Idaho division chief who was fired last year has filed suit claiming she was the victim of gender discrimination, age discrimination, retaliation, and an assortment of tort-related claims. Division Chief Jessie A. Morrow filed suit this week in US District Court for the District of Idaho naming Kootenai County Fire & Rescue, its Board of Commissioners, fire chef and two deputy chiefs.

The suit alleges that Chief Morrow’s position as Division Chief of Administration was taken from her when her position was redesignated as Director of Administration.  It also alleges that she was excluded from chief meetings, and subjected to “a pervasive attitude… that Morrow, as the only female Chief, was not welcome.”

Chief Morrow was terminated on December 2, 2020 following what the complaint refers to as a:

  • a sham investigation and conducted by a law firm chosen by KCFR’s attorney that, upon information and belief, routinely represents municipalities and political subdivisions such as KCFR.
  • The investigator’s letter to KCFR’s attorney makes clear that the investigation was an improper investigation of Morrow and intended to be used by KCFR to take disparate action against Morrow about her concerns raised with the FMLA issue, KCFR’s policies and the hostile work environment she was experiencing at KCFR.
  • KCFR, its agents, employees, and/or representatives… by their actions…
    • have discriminated against Morrow due to her age and sex and retaliated against Morrow in violation of Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), as amended, Title 29 of the United States Code, Section 62I et. seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and have denied Morrow’s rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Art. I. §13 of the Constitution of the State of Idaho.by their actions have intentionally and maliciously made false, defamatory, and slanderous statements about Morrow’s character and fitness to perform her duties.
    • were intended to damage Morrow’s professional reputation and otherwise restrict her ability to advance her professional career.
    • made said statements they knew them to be false and/or made the statements with reckless disregard of the truth with the intent to injure Morrow’s character, integrity, good name and standing in the community.
  • As a result, Morrow’s professional reputation has been irreparably harmed and she has incurred substantial financial hardship.

Included in the complaint are allegations of wrongful discharge, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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