Like pretty much every big-city fire department, the one in Los Angeles has come under intense legal pressure to hire more female applicants, and in doing so to water down or eliminate whatever former prerequisites for hiring (such as physical tests calling for a show of upper-body strength) show “disparate impact” against women. And having been whipped up one side of the street on those grounds, it now gets whipped down the other side for having apparently responded in the most direct and practical way to the first set of legal pressures:
In the latest bizarre court case involving the Los Angeles Fire Department, a jury has awarded $3.75 million to a male fire captain who said he was retaliated against for not making training exercises easier for women.
Fire Capt. Frank Lima alleged in his lawsuit against the city that he was told by superiors that he shouldn’t hold women to the same standards as men. The reason: The Fire Department was under pressure from City Hall to increase the number of women within its ranks.
Thursday’s judgment in the 2 1/2 -week case in Los Angeles County Superior Court was notable because it involved $2.96 million in noneconomic damages — in other words, money for pain and suffering.
In his lawsuit, Lima alleged that he suffered heart problems and stress after the department tried to punish him and subsequently denied him certain assignments.
(Steve Hymon, “L.A. fire captain awarded $3.75 million”, Los Angeles Times, Jul. 9). For more on the legal pressures on fire departments to relax performance standards that women have trouble meeting, see Jan. 18. For a related set of sued-if-you-do, sued-if-you-don’t dilemmas for fire departments, see Mar. 24, 2005 (reverse discrimination suits by whites after Chicago altered rules to encourage black applicants). Finally, we covered (Dec. 5, 2006 and earlier posts) the saga of the $2.7 million settlement that the LAFD paid to a firefighter subjected to a prank in which he was tricked into eating dog food.