Fresno Fire Department Discrimination Lawsuit

December 22, 2008 2:04:17 PM PST
Fresno's Fire Department is facing a discrimination lawsuit after one of their recruits says she was forced out of the academy. Michelle Maher hoped to become a fire fighter. But more than half way through the academy, Maher claimed she was forced out in December 2005, because she is a woman.

Michelle Maher pushes her body to the limit almost every day.

She's a lifelong athlete training for cage fighting.

Maher said the rigorous fire academy was not a hurdle.

Maher: "With no problem. There are quiet a few men that were very fatigued. I had no problem with this. I was at the top of my class I would say."

But she claimed supervisors gave her low scores on her physical performance even though she's in top shape.

She also said she faced sexual harassment.

Maher: "As far as me being a single mother ... I was told that was actually getting in the way of me performing to the best of my ability."

Fresno fire officials dispute the lawsuit ... Saying every candidate is given a fair chance.

Deputy Chief Kerri Donnis said she never experienced gender discrimination.

Donnis: "It was challenging but anything worth its salt is going to be challenging. I was prepared for that just like anyone in this department who is successful must be prepared for the challenges."

Maher hired Dan Siegel ... The same attorney who represented former bulldog coaches' Lindy Vivas and Stacy Johnson-Klein.

Siegel said Maher's case is just as strong as the others he won.

Dan Siegel: "She was subject arbitrary, discriminatory treatment in the department. She was subject to rumors about her relationship with her instructors."

The Fire Department declined to discuss any more details about the lawsuit.

Maher is now teaching.

She still wants to be a fire fighter and believes only a few people in the department are guilty of discrimination and sexual harassment.


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