NBC 10 I-Team: Providence firefighter suspended for alleged topless photo incident

Providence Fire Department (WJAR File Photo)

The NBC 10 I-Team has learned a Providence city firefighter is off the job because of alleged sexual harassment-type behavior involving a female co-worker, who outranks him.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare confirmed a firefighter was suspended with pay. He called it an "internal matter" at this point and said he couldn’t discuss the situation further.

The I-Team has learned, through sources, that a male firefighter with three years on the job was helping a female lieutenant with the social media app Snapchat when he noticed a topless photo of the woman on her own phone’s camera roll. Sources told the I-Team that the male firefighter sent that topless photo to his own phone and, in return, sent the female lieutenant a bare-chested photo of himself -- unsolicited.

Sources said the woman went to her superiors with a complaint and that the firefighter was suspended.

An internal hearing is expected within 30 days, and sources told the I-Team that the city is looking to fire the male firefighter.

Culture of harassment?

The firefighter’s suspension comes about a month after the city lost its appeal of a more than $700,000 jury award in the sexual harassment and discrimination case of former Providence Fire Lieutenant Lori Franchina.

A jury found Franchina was sexually harassed and discriminated against by male firefighters. Her final award is expected to grow to more than a $1 million with interest and fees. In an exclusive interview with the I-Team at the time, Franchina said, "It would have been easier for the city to discipline as it went, than to let this culminate into a major, major problem. A systemic problem that still exists to this day."

Sources told the I-Team that Pare is not taking inappropriate behavior lightly and is looking to eradicate any culture of harassment that may still exist within the department.

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