New Trial Denied in Fresno, CA, Fire Department Discrimination Suit

A federal judge denied the city of Fresno, California’s motion for a new trial Monday in a sex discrimination suit where former fire department trainee Michelle Maher won a $2.5 million settlement. District Judge Oliver Wanger also ruled against Fresno’s claim that the evidence in the case did not fully support the original November 2009 jury verdict. The ruling in Maher’s suit found she was forced out of the Fresno Fire 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.” Among other claims, Maher alleged that she was asked either to resign or be expelled after scoring below an 80 percent on an exam. Maher’s male counterparts were given opportunities to improve their scores. Maher told the Fresno Bee after today’s ruling that she was pleased, but the problem she has “is still being blamed after the verdict.” The city of Fresno is currently having severe financial problems. Maher’s attorney, attorney, Dan Siegel, also told the Fresno Bee that the verdict against Fresno “was not Michelle’s fault, it was the Fire Department’s fault. They did a lousy risk-management job.” According to ABC, only 2.4 percent of Fresno firefighters are women. None of the women serving at the time of Maher’s settlement had been hired since Fire Chief Randy Bruegman was hired in 2003.


Fresno Bee 3/15/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/16/09; ABC 11/13/09

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