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NBC 10 I-Team: 2nd female firefighter suing Providence

A female Providence firefighter claims she faced harassment and discrimination on the job, both because she’s a woman and because she’s gay.

A female Providence firefighter claims she faced harassment and discrimination on the job, both because she’s a woman and because she’s gay.

The latest lawsuit comes just a few months after another retired female firefighter was awarded more than $800,000 in her own harassment and discrimination case against the city.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court, Lt. Danielle Masse, a paramedic who previously worked as a rescue captain, said female firefighters who date or have sex with their male coworkers are treated better than women who refuse to do so.

The same accusation surfaced in the earlier lawsuit filed by Lori Franchina. Franchina told the NBC 10 I-Team following the verdict in April that she believed other women had faced the same treatment she endured inside the Providence Fire Department, but had not yet come forward. The city is still appealing the monetary award in that case.

In Masse’s complaint, she said department leaders used an argument she had with a Rhode Island State Trooper to derail her career. Masse and the trooper disagreed about whether a suspect involved in a car crash should go to the hospital for medical treatment. An internal investigation found that Masse acted unprofessionally. As a result, she was demoted from Captain to Lieutenant, suspended for 10 days without pay, and permanently reprimanded.

In her lawsuit, Masse said the move was retaliation because she agreed to testify in Franchina’s case. Masse claims the department’s acting chief, Scott Mello, told coworkers that, “We need to get Masse. We have to nail Masse on this thing.”

She also describes a frat house atmosphere inside the fire department, including instances when a female coworker was called demeaning and vulgar insults. Masse also claims in her lawsuit that male firefighters routinely drank alcohol on the job, even storing booze in something called a “liquor locker.” The complaint notes that after the men start drinking, “Sexual comments, innuendo and bad behavior escalates.”

A spokeswoman for Mayor Jorge Elorza said Wednesday afternoon that the city had not yet been served with the latest lawsuit, and therefore couldn’t comment on the allegations.


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