Jury Awards Fire Recruit $2.46M in Sex Discrimination Suit Against Fresno Fire Department | Equal Rights Advocates
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Jury Awards Fire Recruit $2.46M in Sex Discrimination Suit Against Fresno Fire Department

November 15, 2009 | by
Michelle Maher(Fresno, CA) -Jurors reached a verdict late Friday night in a closely watched sex discrimination trial against the Fresno Fire Department, finding in favor of Fire Recruit  Michelle Maher and awarding her 2.46 million in damages.

The jury found that the Fresno Fire Department discriminated against Maher, who was  the only woman in her 2005 recruit class, when it kicked her out of the fire training  academy. The Fire Department could not side-step convincing evidence that it held  Maher to a higher standard than male recruits. Maher, who is a professional-caliber  athlete, was told that she could not be successful in the fire department as a mother.  Multiple individuals testified that the man responsible for evaluating Ms. Maher and the  other recruits said women do not belong in the Fire Service.

After the verdict, one juror embraced Maher and said, “If my son were trapped in a  burning building, I would want you to be the fire fighter to save him.” Maher was  overjoyed at the verdict: “I felt numb, for the past few years I have been telling my story  over and over again. Now I can finally move on with my life.”

Maher was represented by Equal Rights Advocates, a national non-profit based in San  Francisco and East Bay law firm Siegel & Yee.

Siegel & Yee attorney Jessica Albert said, “Women serve in combat, at some point soon  a woman will be president, and women are highly successful firefighters. It will take  leadership to break through old stereotypes and increase the  number of women in the  Fresno Fire Department. This has not happened yet but hopefully now it will.”

ERA attorney Luz Mayberg said, “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.”

Siegel & Yee is a 30-year old law firm that specializes in civil rights and other civil  litigation. Founded in 1974, Equal Rights Advocates works to protect and secure equal  rights and economic opportunities for all women through advocacy, education, and litigation.

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