A California firefighter is celebrating today after a jury found Friday the San Jose Fire Department retaliated against the plaintiff when she claimed the department passed her over for promotions because she’s a woman.
The San Jose Fire Department battalion chief bursts into tear when the jury announced its verdict.
“It’s overwhelming for someone to say we heard you,” Patricia Tapia told NBC News.
Tapia says leadership is to blame for the way she’s been treated.
“It’s the leadership that needs to be held accountable for the way they treat the employees of the fire department,” Tapia said.
NBC reports Tapia argued she applied for 10 promotions in the last five years and was denied each time.
In 2012, Tapia and colleague Debra Ward settled a discrimination lawsuit, but contend following the case they were both punished for speaking up.
“Maybe it has changed something,” Ward told NBC. “Maybe they’ll think twice before doing it again.”
NBC reports the jury did not find the city or fire department had acted with discrimination or retaliation toward Ward, who is now retired, and she calls the verdict a disappointment.
“We strive to make this a safe workplace for everyone,” San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle said.
Doyle stopped short of saying the culture at the fire department needed to change, but did tell NBC “education, awareness and a little more sensitivity” will be addressed.
Hearing the department is at least planning to address the issues is music to the firefighters’ ears.
“I’ll keep raising my hand and opening my mouth in doing whatever it takes and make sure others follow behind me,” Tapia tells NBC. “It’s important.”
Tapia won about $800,000 in damages. Ward’s lawyer tells NBC they are considering an appeal.
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