Sex discrimination | Fire department worker sues after less qualified male staff 'routinely' sent out

Fire department worker sues after less qualified male staff 'routinely' sent out

A female fire investigator in Kokomo, Indiana is suing the city’s fire department for sex discrimination, alleging she is being withheld work because of her gender and as retaliation because she filed a previous complaint.

Glenda Myers, a division chief of fire investigation, alleges that Kokomo Fire Department regularly refuses to dispatch her to investigate the cause of fires. Instead, the fire department “routinely” sends male employees who are not certified investigators.

The lawsuit says: "Defendant (city of Kokomo) gives more favorable treatment to similarly situated male employees as well as to junior, less qualified male employees."

As a result, she has filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging she has missed out on thousands of hours' worth of pay, and is seeking lost wages and benefits, damages, interest and attorneys’ fees.

Myers alleges that the standard number of hours worked in a week is 40 hours for someone in her role, with a fire investigator typically available on call 24/7, which can lead to thousands of dollars in overtime a year.

She also claims that the department discriminated against her further after she filed a gender discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2018.

But the city of Kokomo denies allegations of discrimination, as it claims that department policy says that a fire investigator does not need to be dispatched to a fire if a shift supervisor can determine the cause it.

Kokomo Fire Department also states that Myers’ complaint in 2018 was dismissed as the federal agency was "unable to conclude that the information obtained established violation of the statutes."

A trial is set to take place June 10, 2025.

Male dominated industries

Unconscious bias and gender discrimination against female employees are likely to be most prevalent in industries that are more commonly seen as masculine. This bias, if it goes unchecked, can lead to assumptions around the capability of female workers, and potentially costly lawsuits.

Research shows that invisible barriers are holding women back in the workplace as opposed to overt sexism on its own. Gender biases amongst managers can prevent women from advancing into leadership positions or progressing their career. That’s why it’s crucial for unconscious bias to be addressed effectively in the workplace.

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