November 20, 2019

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today announced the settlement of a pair of sex discrimination lawsuits it had filed in 2016 on behalf of two female EMT/firefighters who alleged that the Harmony Fire District in Glocester had terminated them from their jobs because of concerns they had raised about differential treatment between male and female firefighters. 

The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court by ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Sonja Deyoe, were on behalf of Kimberly Perreault, who served as an EMT/firefighter for the Harmony Fire District for 12 years before being terminated in January 2015 for purportedly being “unhappy” with the fire department, and Linda Ferragamo, who had also worked at the department for over a decade before being fired after supporting Perreault’s complaints and objecting to her termination.

Without admitting any liability, the Department has agreed to pay Perreault and Ferragamo $12,500 each. The settlement agreements also acknowledge that both women were qualified for the job and were performing their work in “a competent fashion” when they were terminated.

At a Harmony Fire District Board meeting in October 2014, Perreault, Ferragamo, and several male firefighters expressed concerns about women not getting fair treatment in the fire department. Among other things, they alleged that the fire district had become a “boys club” and that the women had no input. Three months later, Perreault was summoned to a meeting with Fire District Chief Stuart Pearson and terminated. The only explanation that Pearson gave was that he believed she was unhappy working there. None of the male firefighters who had raised concerns were disciplined or terminated.

Shortly after Perreault’s termination, Ferragamo complained about the firing and expressed further concern about the way men, but not women, were being promoted in the department. She was soon suspended and then terminated for allegedly missing three shifts over a two-month period; the suit alleged the termination was retaliatory in nature.

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown said today: “As these cases demonstrate, women continue to face barriers in male-dominated jobs. It is important that they feel free to speak out when they face discriminatory conduct and know that the laws provide them protection in doing so.”

More information about the lawsuit can be found here.

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