Los Angeles fire captain Alicia Mathis filed a complaint against her department last week, claiming gender discrimination, a hostile work environment, and harassment. According to the Los Angeles Times, this could be the first class-action lawsuit brought by female firefighters against the department. In front of the Los Angeles City Hall, Mathis recalled her experiences, including having a fellow firefighter climb in to her bed and kiss her at night, being denied a transfer in favor of a less qualified man, and her fear of speaking out against the male harassers in her department, according to the Times. She said that, while her decision to make her complaint public could possibly end her career, her stories and the stories of her fellow female firefighters have propelled her to step up as the public figure in this case.
“It took a lot of courage for her to step forward like this and she has my support 100 percent … I’ve been fighting racism and sexism in this department for 31 years – the system is broken,” said Captain Jerry Thomas, reports the Los Angeles Times. In the past, African-American and rookie firefighters have been the most vocal about the discrimination they have experienced; a 1995 report also found rampant sexual harassment and discrimination, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Mathis and her attorney may not pursue the lawsuit if the fire department adopts certain internal systems, such as creating a procedure to document harassment complaints and the formation of a panel to investigate complaints.