California Female Firefighters Win Discrimination Suit

For decades, female firefighters in Long Beach had to change in hallways and use portable toilets outside the station because the city refused to provide the women with their own facilities — until engineer Karen Rindone made a federal case out of it, reports The Orange County Register.

The city, however, is changing its ways as part of a settlement with four female firefighters who sued in federal court.

“The disparities in facilities … discourage other women firefighters from applying to work as Long Beach firefighters,” said Rindone’s federal suit. “The city has singled out women to be a problem because of their sex, created an environment that fosters hostility and does not place men and women on equal footing.”

The city agreed July 19 to retrofit 24 stations with separate facilities for the city’s nine female firefighters. This agreement settles the federal lawsuit as well as a separate state suit brought by Rindone and two other female firefighters alleging sexual discrimination. As part of the settlement, the city will pay $48,859 in attorney fees and provide the women with protective gear and uniforms fitted for females.

The female firefighters were often given gloves too big for their hands or ill-fitting coats and turnout pants — lowering the effectiveness of the fireproof clothing, the suit said.

Barry Meyers, senior deputy city attorney, said the city had already been renovating the stations — little by little — but not fast enough for the women. A new station nearing completion in North Long Beach will have separate dorm rooms, each with its own bathroom, he said.

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