Barbara Lewicki has been a firefighter for twenty-five years, and is currently the only female firefighter in Daly City, California. But two years ago, she started complaining about the bathroom situation, and says she was then retaliated against. She's suing for unspecified damages.
According to The Contra Costa Times, Lewicki "says she had to walk across the men's sleeping area in her station — where firefighters were sometimes nude or in their underwear — to get to the women's restroom. Although that bathroom was reserved for women, her male colleagues often used it. The bathroom had no lock."
She says that after she complained about the bathroom, she was subjected to a series of requirements her male colleagues weren't, such as being disciplined for wearing a worn uniform, or being forced to send daily redundant emails.
Then her superiors started questioning her fitness for duty. Lewicki was placed on paid leave and asked to submit her lifetime medical records, which she refused to do. "She knew when they got those records they would find something that made her unfit," her lawyer said. "She feels they are looking for anything to fire her."
According to the International Association of Women In Fire And Emergency Services' report, "Barring continued cultural and traditional resistance, women should comprise 17% (up from the current 3.7% national average) of the first responders work force." The current reality is starkly different: With about 11,000 female firefighters nationwide, "firefighting [is] in the lowest 11 percent of all occupations in terms of women employees. Even more striking is the large number of departments where the number of women is zero or nearly so."
Daly City's Only Female Firefighter Sues Over Retaliation For Complaining About Bathroom [Contra Costa Times]
Related: National Report Card On Women In Firefighting [I-Women]