Saginaw Township firefighter files discrimination lawsuit

Published: Sep. 12, 2019 at 4:53 PM EDT
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A pink thigh master, a derogatory name and inappropriate picture taking.

A Saginaw County firefighter says those are just few examples of how she has been harassed and discriminated against.

Her attorney says Chelsea Powers was eager to join the Saginaw Township Fire Department three years ago.

Both say trouble started shortly after she got the job.

"She is very excited about being a firefighter," says attorney Julie Gafkay.

Powers joined the Saginaw Township Fire Department in 2016 and says she was discriminated against and harrased because she is a woman.

The details of her complaints are in a federal lawsuit, filed against the township, the fire chief, and the assistant fire chief.

"When she got off probation she was actually given a pink thigh-master, that signaled to her, hey we are going to treat you differently because you are a woman," says Gafkay, Powers' attorney.

Powers claims when she would complain about that and other issues she believed were not fair, she would hear this.

"She gets repeatedly called a b$*#h by numerous male firefighters, it doesn't stop, she complains, it continues," says Gafkay.

In the lawsuit, Powers claims she tried to be proactive in trying to head off a potential problem.

"There was a male firefighter known for taking other people's phones and taking pictures of his privates, thinking that was funny, she told him don't take my phone," says Gafkay.

She says that request was again greeted with name-calling and derogatory remarks. Gafkay says if the case goes to trial, Powers will have witnesses to back up her claims

Powers is based out of fire station one, which has about 25 firefighters. There are two other women based at the station.

Gafkay says the on-call paid firefighter is on medical leave because of the harassment.

"When you are a firefighter, you should worry about being safe when you go to the scene, when you go to a fire, right, but here Chelsea feels unsafe at the fire station," Gafkay says.

I did talk to Saginaw Township manager Rob Grose today about the lawsuit.

He says because it's a legal and personnel matter, he could not comment.