Cynthia Winner, a 52-year-old volunteer firefighter, filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson-Como Fire Protection District, fire chief, and deputy chief, according to information obtained from the Fire Law Blog article posted by Curt Varone, Dec. 20, 2022.
“I am not able to discuss the lawsuit at this time,” Fire Chief Trent Smith said.
Winner claims that, “Despite having eight years of volunteer firefighting experience during which she responded to ‘over 175 calls,’ and being ‘overwhelmingly qualified,’ she was not hired for one of three paid positions the JCFPD advertised,” Varone wrote in the Fire Law Blog, “Instead, younger male candidates with less experience were hired.”
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the State of Colorado. The lawsuit is 16 pages in length and details 116 points that allege gender and age discrimination.
The following are excerpts from the lawsuit: “Cynthia Winner, Plaintiff, v. Jefferson-Como Fire Protection District, Steven D. Bargas, Individually and in his Official Capacity, and Trent L. Smith, Individually and in his Official Capacity:”
“Until June 2021, rather than post open positions and hire firefighters through a transparent and fair application process, JCFPD simply offered younger male volunteers paid firefighter positions without an application, interview, or any tests:
-In 2015, JCFPA hired two males in their twenties with approximately one year of experience – Caleb Wilson and Cole Duncan.
- In 2017, JCFPD hired Dakota Kell (male, in his twenties), who had only two years of volunteer experience.
- In 2018, JCFPD hired Tyler Swirka, a younger male.
-In 2020, JCFPD handpicked Andrew Williams, a male in his thirties with only two years of volunteer experience.
-Ms. Winner learned of the 2020 vacancy only after it was filled – when she saw Williams with specialized gear for paid firefighters and asked him about it. Had Ms. Winner known about the 2020 opening, she would have applied for it.
“By failing to post these openings, JCFPD ensured that Ms. Winner would not have the opportunity to compete for a paid firefighter position.”
The lawsuit document continued: “June 2021: Ms. Winner applies for one of three paid firefighter positions; JCPFD hires an unqualified younger male, a similarly qualified male, and, rather than hire Ms. Winner, leaves another position open.”
“In June of 2021, the District posted openings for three paid firefighter positions. These positions were posted only internally to give the current JCFPD volunteers an opportunity to apply. Ms. Winner was excited to apply and reiterated her interest in EMT training, expressed many times in the past. Ms. Winner’s multiple certifications, 820+ hours of training, and 175 calls far exceeded the minimum qualifications and experience listed in the job posting.
“Due to her eight-year experience as a volunteer firefighter, multiple long-held certifications, over 820 hours of training, 175 calls, and overall stellar record, Plaintiff was qualified for firefighter positions in 2020 and 2021. JCFPD discriminated against Plaintiff based on sex under Colorado state law in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by:
- offering two paid firefighter positions in December 2020 to male volunteers without requiring them to apply, interview, or test;
- adding a physical test without sufficient notice to Plaintiff but giving such notice to the male candidates in June 2021, preventing Plaintiff from passing the test.
- hiring an unqualified candidate instead of Ms. Winner in June 2021.
- leaving a position open rather than hire Ms. Winner in June 2021.
- raising minimum requirements to screen out Ms. Winner in September 2021; and
- relegating Ms. Winner to inactive status in October 2021.”
“The September 2021 increase in minimum qualifications was not accompanied by departmental deliberations or justified in any other way. Upon information and belief, in September 2021, Defendants hired another male applicant, passing Ms. Winner over again. Defendants’ unlawful employment practices were intentional and based on Plaintiff’s sex.”
More detail on the allegations can be found at the Fire Law Blog website, https://www.firelawblog.com/2022/12/20/colorado-firefighter-claims-gender-and-age-discrimination/ and there is a copy of the 16-page lawsuit at the bottom of this Fire Law Blog webpage.
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