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Lesbian Firefighter Wins Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Emanuel Shirazi

Lori Franchina, a former Rhode Island firefighter, was recently awarded more $800,000 in federal court. Four years ago, Franchina filed a lawsuit against the City of Providence and the local firefighter’s union. Her reason? Gender discrimination.

Franchina claims that her colleagues discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation and gender. Below are some details of the case:

  1. Franchina felt that her safety was compromised at times because of the mistreatment she received from her male colleagues.
  2. As a result of the mistreatment, Franchina claims that she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and depression and now has to undergo daily therapy because of it.
  3. Franchina claims that when complained to her superiors and the union, she received “swift and severe retaliation,” instead of support.
  4. When she acted as lieutenant, she was given the nickname “Frangina” in reference to female genitalia.
  5. Her colleagues publicly displayed a list of things that they didn’t like about her.
  6. Her colleagues refused to help her respond to medical emergencies.
  7. A male colleague told Franchina that he didn’t like working with women.
  8. The same colleague made lewd comments about her sexual orientation such as, “Are you a lesbian?”, “Are you just doing everybody?” and “I’m a lesbian, we like the same thing.” In 2006, this colleague was fired because he sexually harassed Franchina, but eventually got his job back through a grievance procedure.
  9. Franchina claims that she was cornered and yelled at by a male colleague. When she asked the man’s superior to help her he told her, “I’m not your fucking babysitter.”

The city went on the defense, claiming that Franchina was just a difficult person to work with. They described her as being both abrasive and arrogant. The jury saw things differently, however. After a two-week trial, Franchina was awarded $545,000 for lost wages, $161,00 for emotional damages, and $100,00 for punitive damages. The city will appeal the verdict.

What do you think of Ms. Franchina’s experience in a male dominated profession? 

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