Four Black female firefighters have filed a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against the DC Fire and Emergency Services Department (DC FEMS), according to multiple reports.
In their suit, veteran firefighters Jadonna Sanders, Shalonda Smith, Takeva Thomas, and Bolatito Ajose claimed they were subjected to gender and racial discrimination during their tenure. The women said the misconduct occurred in the form of pay and promotions. They also claimed that they suffered “harsher discipline than their white colleagues,” according to WTOP.
“These four women have been long-standing, successful firefighters, but their tenure at DC Fire and Emergency (Medical) Services has been fraught with disparate treatment … there’s a systemic, historic ignoring of complaints of Black women at DC FEMS. They complain about being harassed or bullied, they get ignored; they complain about disparate or unfair treatment, they get ignored,” their attorney Pam Keith, said in a statement.
The women, who are former and current certified paramedics with the department’s Fire Prevention Division, said they were denied premium pay, while other workers in the force received compensation. Now, they are seeking $10 million in compensatory damages for the mental and emotional damage they experienced in the “hostile work environment”, the suit states.
Plaintiff Ajose claimed she endured mental distress from a discriminatory policy DC FEMS allegedly implemented in 2006. Under the provision, women firefighters were “forced to take pregnancy tests and had to have negative tests to remain employed,” FOX 5 DC reported. Ajose, who was pregnant at the time, had an abortion out of fear that she would lose employment. She alleged in the suit that she continues to suffer from mental and emotional pain due to the unlawful policy. Ajose is the only plaintiff that still works with DC FEMS.
“It’s been 21 years, and there’s always something that is unfair as it relates to just being a woman or a brown woman in fire services,” Ajose told Fox 5.
Their attorney Pam Keith, echoed a similar sentiment. “This case is about systemic characteristics of DC FEMS 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.”