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Hotter water for San Diego's fire department

State commission launched gender-discrimination investigation

An emergency medical technician for the City of San Diego says the fire department denied her a job because of her gender.

Nicole Pappas filed a lawsuit against the department on September 13 for discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

The lawsuit adds to a number of discrimination lawsuits filed against the city, its police force, lifeguard department, and the fire department.

Pappas applied to become a firefighter in 2015. In August of that year, Pappas was accepted as one of 36 recruits for the firefighter academy. Among the recruits, there were 33 men and 3 women.

Pappas, in her lawsuit, states that the women were forced to share locker rooms with the men. The harassment began shortly after. Pappas claims she found drawings of penises on her locker. The male recruits commented on her body, calling her "skinny" or saying she had a "fat butt."

During training drills, other recruits purposely knocked her down. In one instance, Pappas answered a question before a male recruit. According to the lawsuit, the instructor then stated, "You're going to let a girl answer the question and get it right before you."

Independent of Pappas's case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had opened an investigation into gender discrimination at the academy based on complaints by Pappas's female classmates.

Some time later, Pappas went to a bar and ran into a San Diego firefighter. He told Pappas that he was aware of the investigation. He then said she would never become a firefighter.

The complaint states that to address complaints of gender discrimination at the academy, the city would stop requiring recruits to run three miles in 24 minutes or less.

In 2016, after Pappas's leg had healed from an injury, she resumed training. During the training, despite the changes supposedly made, Pappas was unable to finish the three-mile run in 24 minutes. The city then terminated her employment.

According to the lawsuit, Pappas continues to work for Rural Metro as an EMT.

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An emergency medical technician for the City of San Diego says the fire department denied her a job because of her gender.

Nicole Pappas filed a lawsuit against the department on September 13 for discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

The lawsuit adds to a number of discrimination lawsuits filed against the city, its police force, lifeguard department, and the fire department.

Pappas applied to become a firefighter in 2015. In August of that year, Pappas was accepted as one of 36 recruits for the firefighter academy. Among the recruits, there were 33 men and 3 women.

Pappas, in her lawsuit, states that the women were forced to share locker rooms with the men. The harassment began shortly after. Pappas claims she found drawings of penises on her locker. The male recruits commented on her body, calling her "skinny" or saying she had a "fat butt."

During training drills, other recruits purposely knocked her down. In one instance, Pappas answered a question before a male recruit. According to the lawsuit, the instructor then stated, "You're going to let a girl answer the question and get it right before you."

Independent of Pappas's case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had opened an investigation into gender discrimination at the academy based on complaints by Pappas's female classmates.

Some time later, Pappas went to a bar and ran into a San Diego firefighter. He told Pappas that he was aware of the investigation. He then said she would never become a firefighter.

The complaint states that to address complaints of gender discrimination at the academy, the city would stop requiring recruits to run three miles in 24 minutes or less.

In 2016, after Pappas's leg had healed from an injury, she resumed training. During the training, despite the changes supposedly made, Pappas was unable to finish the three-mile run in 24 minutes. The city then terminated her employment.

According to the lawsuit, Pappas continues to work for Rural Metro as an EMT.

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Comments
12

It not unusual for the female gender to have difficulty with some of the physical aspects of these public safety jobs. Generally speaking they do not have the same upper body strength as males. Here is my issue: all of these public safety jobs are not acquired overnight. In fact, from the date you submit an application to the date you start a training academy, it’s months. In addition, there are no secrets about the physical requirements of all three jobs. They are posted.

So what are these recruits doing to prepare themselvs BEFORE the academy begins? In her case apparently not enough! The same applies to some men. Some are not fit.

Some will argue the standards should be lowered, or different for women. That’s nonsense. Whether your male or female you’ll face the same physical challenge on these jobs, and they can be quite challenging at times.

Regarding the other behaviors or issues; locker room, comments and treatment. If true, the locker room situation is ridiculous and the city should be held accountable. Comments by the instructor, not necessarily wrong IF it was intended as a motivational comment for the slower male respondent. But, I will concede a poorly worded comment, the instructor should be counseled. The comment made at the bar, if true, then it was made by an idiot. Personnel investigations are confidential.

Sept. 24, 2017

RE: "Whether your male or female..." It's you're (not "your").

Sept. 24, 2017

You are correct, thank you for pointing out the error in my grammar.

Sept. 24, 2017

You are completely correct in your assessment of the physical standards and requirements. There is a line of thought that everyone has a right to do every job. Those not mentally or physically fit to protect the community they serve and the person next to them, have no place in the role. A firefighter needs to be prepared and capable of carrying a 200lb+ unconscious person(s) down a flight of stairs.

Oct. 2, 2017

Funny/sad this is the same story of a good friend of mine in 1988. My friend "M" had completed a BS degree in Public Health from SDSU, a competitive athlete and as fit as most men, had the same experience with the SD Fire Department. After being injured during training she rehabbed and returned to the same attitude, "You'll never complete training or be a Firefighter". The truly sad part is we will never know what "she" might have brought to the SDFD with wisdom, diversity, education and compassion. I will say I have other female friends that did become firefighters and had good careers, however, weather it is discrimination due to sex, orientation, race or religion it is still discrimination. All discrimination is wrong and usually defended by narrow minded, non-diverse, poorly educated and uninformed people, our current president included. BBQ

Sept. 25, 2017

Fire departments are the last bastion of the good ole' boys club.

Sept. 25, 2017

Maybe add NFL and MLB to that list. At least IndyCar and NASCAR has women drivers. They're not fast, but they help the ratings.

Sept. 26, 2017

Ya really don't watch much motorsports, do ya Ken.

Sept. 26, 2017

AlexClark, Fire Departments are not the "Last bastion" there are plenty of other GOBCs in the world and a lot of them aren't only "Boys". We have many groups that have singled themselves out as being "Correct" or "exclusive" weather on the Left, Right, Color, Orientation or Religion we keep harnessing ourselves with a lack of empathy, understanding and compassion for freedom. Discrimination including limiting of expression of ideas that may not appeal to us limits us as a nation. In Berkley of all places, we see the Left formerly Pro-free speech now actively protesting anyone's opinion that offends them. Open dialog is the only thing that leads to diplomatic solution to an issue and is the basis of the Democracy that is the United States of America. It is truly that the Twitter, Facebook generation including the President does not realize the internet algorisms censors the information they receive, sending only opinions that match what they have already looked for. Without peaceful uncensored communication nothing can be solved only enraged. BBQ

Sept. 25, 2017

BBQ, the 1st Amendment does not guarantee 100 percent freedom of speech and writing, esp. with "feedback" to privately-owned publications. Newspapers and magazines have for decades edited "letters to the editor" or outright refused to print many of them. They have the absolute legal right to do so, as do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The Reader can (and does) the same, when online comments become hateful personal attacks, or otherwise are offensive. As for spoken words, the classic example is that you cannot yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater (when there isn't any fire) and cause a stampede to the exits, possibly causing injuries or deaths. Likewise in Berkeley, the alt-right movement demonstration could have incited a riot. In many places today, "hate speech" is a crime, causing one to be arrested. Free speech is NOT absolute. And comments left online with publications, blogs, social media and websites can be edited or rejected by the owners.

Sept. 25, 2017

True but few are as visible at a fire department. It is a classic example but far from the only one.

Sept. 26, 2017

dwbat, I have had the same discussion with my 24 year old son, "Hate Speech" is a crime but different opinions and open dialog are the only way to "solve" the differences. Neither extreme will ever back down however those hovering in the middle need to have the opportunity to hear the irrational arguments of the extremes. By not allowing the "Haters" to speak and obviate the weaknesses in their arguments we allow speculation and can be targeted as the suppressor. Yes words can hurt, but ideology can kill, dialog like it or not is the only way to move ahead. BBQ

Sept. 26, 2017

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