NBC 10 I-Team Exclusive: Labor ruling favors female firefighter

Danielle Masse

A labor complaint from the second female firefighter to sue the City of Providence for discrimination and harassment in the past several years has been decided in her favor.

An arbitrator has ruled that Danielle Masse will have her rank restored to captain and will be paid the difference in wages for the past 20 months. She is currently on medical leave from the department.

The city now has 90 days to appeal the arbitrator’s ruling.

Masse filed the grievance through the Providence Firefighters Union after she was demoted, suspended for 10 days without pay and permanently reprimanded in March 2016 following a verbal argument with a Rhode Island state trooper.

Masse, who is a paramedic, and the trooper disagreed about whether a suspect should be taken to the hospital following a car crash. She believed the man needed to be medically evaluated.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Masse said the discipline she received following that disagreement with the trooper was actually retaliation for speaking out about discrimination and harassment she and other women have experienced within the Providence Fire Department.

In her complaint, Masse said Scott Mello, who was the acting fire chief at the time, told coworkers that, “We need to get Masse. We have to nail Masse on this thing.”

Mello’s alleged statement came just after Masse testified in the case of Lori Franchina, another female firefighter who sued the city. Franchina was awarded more than $800,000 by a jury in 2016, but the city is currently fighting that award in federal appeal court.

Franchina has not yet received the settlement. The total cost to Providence taxpayers could grow to more than $1 million if she prevails on appeal.

During the Franchina trial, Masse told the jury that female firefighters who date or have sex with their male coworkers are treated better than women who don’t. She also said there was a frat house atmosphere in the firehouse, with women called demeaning and vulgar names.

Meanwhile, Masse’s lawsuit is moving forward and could head to trial in early 2018.

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