Four Black female firefighters in the District sued the city Monday, saying they have been “systematically and continuously discriminated against on the basis of their race and gender,” including being denied salary increases and overtime pay and being subjected to unfair disciplinary action.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, comes almost a year after a similar case was filed by 10 current and former Black female police officers in the District who complained of “repeated, coordinated and relentless retaliation” against Black women on the police force who complained about discrimination and other misconduct. That case is pending in U.S. district court.
The fire department case “is about systemic characteristics of [the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services] that turn it into a ‘boys club,’ in which Black women are tolerated, but not embraced or treated as equals, and in which Black women always have to beg, scrape and fight just to be treated fairly,” one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Pamela Keith, said in a statement.
Women's police and firefighter discrimination cases were among the first venues for women's rights equality cases when the earliest public interest litigation began in the 1970s with the Women's Law Fund in Cleveland, Ohio, running parallel to Ruth Bader Ginsburg's ACLU Women's Rights Project. See Tracy Thomas, The Struggle for Gender Equality in the Northern District of Ohio, 171 n.27, in Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie (Paul Finkelman & Roberta Anderson eds.,2012).