ILNews

Judge: IFD discrimination suit can go to trial

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A federal district judge is allowing a sexual discrimination suit against an Indianapolis Fire Department chief to proceed to trial.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis issued an order Tuesday in Morrison v. Indianapolis Fire Department Chief James Greeson, denying the chief's motion for summary judgment.

Filed in January 2006, the suit comes from what 10-year department veteran Ruth Morrison, a fire captain, describes as routine and repeated discrimination because she is female, including her not getting a promotion to chief in 2005. She accuses Greeson and the department of making her follow an order of hygiene and personal appearance when male employees are not required to do so, for reprimanding her for following similar practices that others use and don't get in trouble for, and for changing promotion procedure to adversely affect her application. Morrison wants a jury trial, compensation and damages, and promotion to chief with retroactive pay to December 2005.

In her 39-page order, Judge Barker points to several incidents that are later summed up as "serious and disturbing mistreatment alleged by Morrison."

Those include a "hair grooming incident" where Morrison was reprimanded in front of her crew for not pulling back her hair into a ponytail; the "missing radio incident" where she was reprimanded for a radio that went missing while she was on vacation; a "fuel run incident" where she was punished for sending a lone engineer to get fuel as her male counterparts often do without trouble; and several allegations of discrimination and retaliations involving the chain of command.

"Morrison has provided more than enough evidence of a hostile work environment at the IFD to withstand Greeson's motion for summary judgment," Judge Barker wrote. "The discriminatory treatment Morrison alleges is frequent and substantially severe and could certainly be understood to alter the conditions of her employment. Morrison has clearly met her burden here and has the right to present her hostile work environment claim at trial."

While neither party devoted much space in briefings to the failure to promote claim, and little caselaw is offered by the parties, Judge Baker cited the overall evidence presented as sufficient to allow it to go forward despite it being "far from watertight."
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  1. Paul Ogden doing a fine job of remembering his peer Gary Welsh with the post below and a call for an Indy gettogether to celebrate Gary .... http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2016/05/indiana-loses-citizen-journalist-giant.html Castaways of Indiana, unite!

  2. It's unfortunate that someone has attempted to hijack the comments to promote his own business. This is not an article discussing the means of preserving the record; no matter how it's accomplished, ethics and impartiality are paramount concerns. When a party to litigation contracts directly with a reporting firm, it creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Court reporters, attorneys and judges are officers of the court and must abide by court rules as well as state and federal laws. Parties to litigation have no such ethical responsibilities. Would we accept insurance companies contracting with judges? This practice effectively shifts costs to the party who can least afford it while reducing costs for the party with the most resources. The success of our justice system depends on equal access for all, not just for those who have the deepest pockets.

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