Former firefighter files sexual discrimination lawsuit against San Carlos Park Fire District

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Colleen Moore

FORT MYERS, Fla. A former firefighter filed a lawsuit against the San Carlos Park Fire and Rescue District in connection with sexual discrimination.

Colleen Moore, who was the first female firefighter at the station on 19591 Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, believes she was forced to quit her dream job.

Moore claims she was discriminated for 20 years by her fellow firefighters because of her gender.

“One of my coworkers said to my face, ‘You don’t belong here, women should be home having children and taking care of the house, they should not be firefighters,'” Moore said.

Moore dealt with sexist remarks, jokes and was often referred to as “the girl” by her superiors, according to court documents.

While Moore made her way up the ranks, her superiors wanted to change the rules because she was “too good at taking written tests,” court documents showed.

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“She was held to a different standard. When the guys, as you put it, didn’t reach that same standard, they lowered the bar so that they can catch up with her,” Moore’s attorney Tammy Page said.

Moore was told she could face discipline if she did not cut her hair, according to court documents.

“They have certain requirements that none of your hair could touch your collar and she made every effort to make sure not even one strand hit her collar,” Page said.

San Carlos Park Fire and Rescue District public information officer Alexis Rothring released the following statement Wednesday:

“San Carlos Park Fire Protection and Rescue Service District denies the allegations of unlawful conduct contained in Ms. Moore’s lawsuit.  Beyond that, the District can only state at this time that it plans to vigorously defend the case in the appropriate forum, which is a court of law.”

In 2010, Moore was involved in a minor accident with the fire engine that resulted in slight damage to a reflector on the engine, according to court documents. As a result, Moore was demoted from the rank of Lieutenant to firefighter and had her supervisory authorities removed for one year.

Moore filed a grievance with her union representative and after a year of fighting the disparate treatment due to her sex, she won arbitration against the station, according to court documents.

Moore was reinstated as a lieutenant, but the station’s harassment toward Moore only increased, according to court documents.

After suffering severe depression and post-traumatic stress, a psychiatrist recommended Moore to be “constructively discharged.”

“It means that the environment is so intolerable that a quote, unquote reasonable person in the same situation would have left,” Page said.

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Throughout Moore’s career, she was the only female firefighter with the exception of about six months, according to court documents. A second female was hired in 2001 at the station, but soon returned to her station in the Miami area.

Moore says she doesn’t want another firefighter to have to go through this.

“I can assure you that is not what I want. No woman should have to go through that, they should be able to live their dream of being a firefighter and be held at the same standards as the men,” Moore said.

Moore is suing for discrimination, retaliation and constructive discharge. A trial date has not been set.

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