Harmony Fire settles over gender filings

Harmony Fire settles over gender filings

GLOCESTER – After 12 years of service, Kimberly Perreault said she was wrongfully fired in 2016 from the Harmony Fire District after speaking out about women not being promoted in the department, she said in a complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

On Nov. 20, the ACLU announced that Perreault and her coworker, Linda Ferragamo, were awarded $12,500 each in a settlement with the district, which did not admit liability in the lawsuit.

Though volunteers, both earned a sum of approximately $2,000 per year.

The department also agreed to acknowledge both women as “qualified for the job and were performing in a competent fashion when terminated,” according to a release.

Steven Brown of the ACLU of Rhode Island said the case demonstrates the barriers women face in male-dominated jobs.

“It is important that they feel free to speak out when they face discriminatory conduct and know that the laws provide them protection in doing so,” he said.

Both women were EMT officers for the department for more than a decade and were fired in 2015, according to a statement.

Both expressed concerns that women firefighters were not being treated on the same level as men firefighters. According to their statement, male firefighters backed the women’s accounts.

Perreault said the department was becoming a boys club, and women were not given input, with men promoted while women were not. In her complaint against the department, she said she had not been considered for two prior promotions.

After Perreault was fired, she continued to apply for her position, and was told she would not be considered. She made several attempts to get an explanation for her termination, but all were rejected. The only explanation Perreault received was that she was “unhappy” working in the department. Ferragamo was fired for allegedly missing three shifts over two months.

While Perreault was fired in January 2015 following her statements about promotions, Ferragamo was fired in August of that year after raising concerns about gender discrimination.

In contrast, male staffers who supported Perreault’s complaint were neither disciplined nor did they have their employment terminated.