The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Maine, other New England states, and Puerto Rico, today reversed the decision of a Puerto Rico court and held that a sex discrimination lawsuit against a Puerto Rico fire department may proceed. Waleska Garayalde-Rijos, the plaintiff in the case, alleged that the municipality of Carolina hired male firefighter applicants ahead of her because of her sex. Garayalde-Rijos contends that she should have been hired ahead of these men because she obtained a higher score than them on the tests that the fire department administered to applicants. In fact, she obtained a higher score than all of the applicants.
After Garayalde-Rijos filed a sex discrimination complaint against Carolina, the fire department decided to hire her. She became the first female firefighter in the history of the Carolina fire department. After her hire, however, she alleges that she experienced further discrimination and retaliation for filing her sex discrimination complaint. For instance, she says that the fire department required her to share gear with a male firefighter and the gear did not fit her properly, which jeopardized her safety.
Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common. In the United States, less than 4% of all firefighters are women. There are countless stories of women who have faced discrimination when they try to become firefighters and, for those who successfully become firefighters, there are numerous stories of how they experience sex discrimination and sexual harassment on the job. If you are a woman who believes a fire department has discriminated against you because of your sex, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.