Five female Emergency Medical Service captains are filing suit today, claiming that top FDNY brass are trying to keep them from climbing the department ladder.
In a sex-discrimination lawsuit to be filed this morning in Manhattan Supreme Court, the five - some of whom toiled at Ground Zero - claim they have been repeatedly turned down for promotions they deserve. They say they've been stuck at the rank of captain while men who were less qualified moved up to deputy chief.
Amy Monroe, a 15-year veteran whose story was featured in the book "Women of Ground Zero," said she applied for a deputy-chief slot in 2005, along with several other female EMS workers. "All of us had outstanding evaluations," as well as experience in specialty units, she said. But she said she wasn't allowed to interview for the job. "They wouldn't even allow us into the process," she said. They ended up promoting the male candidate who had applied, Monroe said, noting she had applied six times. "We have always tried to diplomatically" solve these issues, she said, adding the suit came after years of frustration.
"We have to be a lot stronger [than men]. I would never cry. I've seen more men cry on this job than I have," she said. "But we have to be stronger. And by the fact that we have to be stronger, you'd think that we would be recognized, and not viewed as a threat." Workers take an exam for promotion to lieutenant. But supervisors appoint any higher rank. FDNY spokesman Frank Gribbon said, "The system of promotion to this rank is fair, and it's evidenced by the fact that almost half of [the deputy-chief jobs on the EMS side of the department] are held by women." But Yetta Kurland, lead lawyer for the women, said, "Women have hit a female firewall in the FDNY."
Kurland said there are "just a handful of ranking officers" who are women, including roughly six chiefs and about a dozen captains. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages. "It's not about us being angry," Monroe said. "It's that we do have a responsibility to our peers and fellow workers [and] also to the future of our field, whether they be male or female."