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ACLU, Former Fire Department Trainees Claim Sex Discrimination in Lawsuit

April 4, 1995

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Three out of four female recruits resign or are fired from the Los Angeles Fire Department because of sexual discrimination, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against the department.

``What we’re saying today is that there’s a very loud alarm bell that’s been sounding an emergency ... and now the federal court is going to have to put the fire out,″ said Alan Parachini, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit, filed Monday by the ACLU on behalf of former department trainees and probationary firefighters, alleges that the discrimination is encouraged by superiors.

Fire department spokesman Bob Collins said officials had no comment.

The department has been the target of sexual and racial discrimination complaints in recent months.

One case involved the discovery of a videotape dubbed ``Female Follies,″ which shows female recruits making mistakes on training exercises while their male counterparts perform well. The tape, shot during exercises at the training academy in 1993, was shown at some fire stations.

Critics said the tape belittled women, but an internal investigation found no wrongdoing.

The lawsuit alleges that female recruits were required to perform drills more frequently and under more difficult conditions than their men. It also says women were reprimanded for complaining.

One of the plaintiffs, Jennifer Toso, said one drill required trainees to climb a six-story ladder into a mock building, and then descend the stairs. The women had to arrive early and perform the drill several times before the men did, she said.

``There was no explanation ... other than the fact that in their opinion we needed the practice,″ she said.

Mark Monez, the only male plaintiff, said he was taunted after he was assigned to an all-female group. He had been injured in a ladder accident during his regular recruit class.

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