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Fresno, CA Fire Department Loses Sex Discrimination Suit

A federal court jury ruled in favor of Michelle Maher, a former Fresno Fire Department recruit, who alleged she was forced out of the department’s training due to her gender. Maher’s sex discrimination claim rested on the premise that she was “told that she could not be successful in the fire department as a mother,” according to Equal Rights Advocates. Among other claims, Maher alleged that she was asked either to resign or be expelled after scoring below an 80 percent on an exam. According to Mercury News, Maher’s male counterparts were given opportunities to improve their scores.

Luz Mayberg, an attorney from Equal Rights Advocates, which supported Maher’s case, said in a press release, “Up until now, Fresno Fire Department has refused to accept responsibility for its discriminatory actions. We hope that this award sends a message to fire departments across the nation that the days of excluding women from the fire service are over.”

According to ABC, only 2.4 percent of Fresno firefighters are women. None of the women currently serving have been hired since Fire Chief Randy Bruegman was hired six years ago. Maher was awarded nearly $2.5 million in the settlement.

Sources:

Equal Rights Advocates Press Release 11/15/09; ABC 11/13/09; Mercury News 11/13/09

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