4 Black female firefighters sue DC Fire for $10 million for race, gender discrimination

Four long-tenured Black female firefighters are suing DC Fire and Emergency Services for $10 million for race and gender discrimination, according to a press release.

The lawsuit says the discrimination came in the form of payment of wages, promotions, training and job opportunities and maintenance of a retaliatory and hostile workplace with a culture of intimidation. 

The women assert that they were subjected to much harsher discipline than their white colleagues and that their repeated complaints about unfair and disparate treatment were consistently ignored.

READ MORE: Newborn dies; DC 911 dispatcher sends crew to wrong address

Jadonna Sanders, Shalonda Smith, Takeva Thomas and Bolatito Ajose made the allegations in a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorney Pam Keith. Keith asks for $10 million in compensatory damages for emotional and mental distress caused by the actions of DC FEMS, as well as a jury trial in U.S. Federal Court.

The lawsuit says DC FEMS holds Black women to harsher standards and forces them to endure years of investigation and disciplinary actions for things that are not disciplined when it comes to other firefighters.

This lawsuit comes after two earlier cases where DC FEMS was forced to enter into consent decrees to eliminate discrimination.

In one of the cases, filed in 2006, women firefighters were forced to take pregnancy tests and had to have negative tests to remain employed.

READ MORE: DC Firefighter charged with armed robbery in Virginia

Plaintiff Ajose was one of the women who was pregnant, and was forced to have an abortion to maintain her employment. She alleges in the lawsuit that she continues to suffer mental and emotional pain from DC FEMS’ immoral and unlawful policy. She is the only plaintiff in that case who is still employed by DC FEMS.

"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," said attorney Keith. Ms. Keith is also co-counsel on the ongoing Brinkley, et al. v. District of Columbia class action lawsuit, brought by ten Black women police officers against Metro Police last September.

Read the lawsuit in full here: