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Woman Awarded $806K After Employer Wouldn't Address Complaints

Woman Awarded $806K After Employer Wouldn’t Address Complaints

Firefighter says she dealt with years of harassing and discriminatory behavior

Working in a traditionally male-dominated field can have its challenges if you’re a woman. Of course, the reverse of that is also true.

Unfortunately, sometimes these challenges involve discriminatory or harassing behavior. Then, going to work every day may mean facing ridicule, as well as verbal or physical threats. Dealing with that level of stress can take a toll on a person.

“It had an effect almost every day,” Lori Franchina recently told a local news station after winning a discrimination and harassment lawsuit against her former employer. “It breaks you. It wears you down. You still try to come to work every day and do your job well.”

Franchina was just awarded $806,000 by a federal jury. Her case may provide some insight for other workers who may be facing similar situations.

Complaints were ignored

Franchina began her employment at a fire company in 2002. She quickly moved through the ranks and became a Lieutenant.

However, she claims that her success didn’t sit well with some of her colleagues. She says the fact that she was a woman and a lesbian made her a target for several of her male coworkers.

In her lawsuit, Franchina claims that she filed multiple complaints of harassment and insubordination over many years. Her complaints, she alleges, were largely ignored by her superiors and often resulted in retaliation.

One colleague, in particular, frequently made lewd references to Franchina’s sexual orientation. That man was eventually fired, but then was later reinstated.

Franchina claims that some of her coworkers’ animosity toward her undermined the effectiveness of the fire department as a whole. She described one incident in which other firefighters refused to help her move a patient whom Franchina had ascertained could be a candidate for lifesaving measures.

Another time, Franchina says that a subordinate snapped his glove in her face while they were attending to a patient who’d been shot in the head. Franchina claims that she was sprayed in the face with blood, brain matter, and other bodily fluids.

That incident caused severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says Franchina.

She went out on sick leave in 2012 and did not return to work. After that, she sued the fire department for discrimination and harassment based on gender and sexual orientation.

During the trial in federal court, the fire department countered that Franchina was abrasive, arrogant, and could not get along with others. It also stated that Franchina’s complaints were addressed by urging fire department staffers to work together as a team.

After a two-week trial, a jury awarded Franchina $806,000, including $545,000 for lost wages, $161,000 for emotional damages and $100,000 for punitive damages.

The fire department says that it plans to appeal the case.

(You can read more about the case here.)

What it means to you

Reporting to work every day shouldn’t involve putting up with harassing or discriminatory behavior. If you believe that you’ve been treated unlawfully due to your gender or sexual orientation, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney about your rights.

Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.
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