Posts Tagged ‘fire departments’

Bid to stop suicide fails, San Francisco will pay

“The family of a 26-year-old man who died two years ago after an off-duty firefighter tried to rescue him from the edge of a roof will receive a financial settlement from The City, after claiming the firefighter was at fault.” Fire Lt. Victor Wyrsch tried to grab the suicidal Nick Torrico from the roof, but Torrico tore himself loose and fell to his death, and now the city’s taxpayers will pay Torrico’s family based on their contention that Wyrsch should have held back. (Beth Winegarner, “San Francisco pays up for failed rescue”, San Francisco Examiner, Aug. 26).

After Setting Fires, Firefighter Wants Job Back

In 1997, Erie, Pa. hired its first female firefighter. Nearly a decade later, she was quietly fired after setting fire to her father’s house as part of a suicide attempt.  In fact, the Erie Civil Service Commission wrote at the time that: “Her setting a fire … is the single most significant act a fire fighter may not commit.  The act of establishing a fire in a residence is wholly incompatible with the role of the fire fighter, despite the mitigating circumstances of [her] psychological state.”  Now, she has brought her appeal public in a filing in local courts earlier this year. (, 3/24)

Connecticut: timed fireman test violated ADA, cont’d

Updating our Jan. 18, 2007 post: “Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities says that the city of Stamford violated anti-discrimination law because they wouldn’t give extra time on a promotion exam to David Lenotti. Lenotti is a fire lieutenant with attention deficit disorder.” [Excerpting coverage in the Apr. 15 Stamford Advocate*]:

The city defended the denial by claiming a fire captain, the position Lenotti sought, must be able to read and process information quickly at a fire scene. But state officials said the city never proved that was true, never consulted with disability rights experts and does not use a promotional test that actually measures how fast a candidate can read.

(Dave Statter, Apr. 20; Created Things, Apr. 16; decision in PDF format). More: Daniel Schwartz has more analysis (May 3): if you want a fire captain to be able to read quickly at emergency scene, gotta spell that out explicitly in the job description.
*An odd aspect of the Stamford Advocate article, preserved on GoogleCache: it quotes disability consultant Suzanne Kitchen making the very same comment, word for word, that we criticized her for making more than a year ago. Does Ms. Kitchen really repeat herself so precisely?

On gender, L.A. fire department can’t win for losing

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.

“Calculating damages: a formula for outrage”

Latest in the Tennie Pierce (firehouse dog food prank) saga: Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez finds reader sentiment heavily taking the view that the $2.7 million settlement figure is stark raving bonkers (Dec. 3). He speaks with Chief Assistant City Atty. Gary Geuss to get a feel for how the number was arrived at:

“The mediator said Pierce would be a good witness, his wife would be good and his daughter was going to get on the stand and start crying,” says Geuss….

In one case that went to trial two years ago, an L.A. cop got $4.1 million in a racial discrimination and retaliation case despite having made his own disparaging racial remarks.

Juries tend to jump at the chance to stick it to employers, Geuss said. When prospective jurors are asked if any of them have had issues with their bosses, “About 90% of the hands go up.”

Geuss began doing the math….

The L.A. Times’s news side, according to blogger Patterico, has begun belatedly acknowledging some of the flaws in Pierce’s case (Dec. 3; Jim Newton, “Dog food lawsuit a test for L.A. mayor”, Dec. 3). Earlier: Nov. 11, Nov. 22, Nov. 29, Dec. 2.

Town won’t accept racy calendar proceeds

Since the 1999 sensation over England’s “Ladies of Rylstone”, the fad has spread around the world of charity fundraising calendars displaying the unclothed (but strategically obscured) bodies of middle-aged and elderly townspeople. In Carmel, Calif., however, the city is refusing to accept $40,000 in proceeds from the Carmel Fire Belles calendar, which features local women aged 51 to 84 posing behind firefighting equipment. City attorney Donald Freeman “said that under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, accepting the money could make the city liable for a sexual-harassment lawsuit. He says the city has already received numerous complaints from city workers.” An outside law firm offered the same opinion, Freeman said. (Nicholas Shields, “Fearing Lawsuits Because of Birthday Suits, City Shuns a Gift”, Feb. 7).