NBC 10 I-Team: Female firefighter awarded $800K in sexual harassment suit
Retired Providence Fire Lt. Lori Franchina was awarded more than $800,000 by a Federal jury Monday, after jurors found she endured both sexual harassment and retaliation while on the job.
Jurors deliberated less than four hours before reaching their decision, which included $100,000 in punitive damages.
A spokesperson said the city plans to appeal the verdict and won't make any payments this year. If any award is upheld on appeal, however, that money would come from the city's general fund.
Franchina spoke with the NBC 10 I-Team outside the courthouse, just moments after learning the outcome of the two-week trial.
"I still don't believe it. I'm still absorbing it," she said. "I think it's really important for others to know that if this is happening, or has happened, that they need to stay the fight."
Franchina's attorneys told the jury several of her male co-workers gave her a crass nickname, "Fran-gina," by combining her last name with the word "vagina." Franchina also said her subordinates refused to follow her orders while responding to emergency medical calls, putting her safety and the safety of the public at risk. Attorneys for the city denied that claim during the trial.
"There were several calls, emergency calls in which people were fighting for their lives," Martin said. "This lieutenant did not have the subordination or cooperation of her underlings, and it put people in jeopardy. I think that's why the jury came back to quickly."
Martin told the jury that Franchina went to her supervisors numerous times, including meeting with Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare. One male firefighter was fired for sexual harassment, but later got his job back. Martin said the other men involved in the case were never disciplined by the city.
"One thing she cannot do without the help of a jury is make changes in this department because it's unwilling to change by itself," he said.
Outside the courthouse, Franchina hugged her family and friends and told NBC 10 she's not alone. She said at least one other female firefighters is considering a similar lawsuit.
NBC 10 will continue to follow the story.