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Black Women Firefighters Sue Department for Discrimination


When Bolatito Ajose joined the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department in 2001, she and the other women new to the department were required to take pregnancy tests. Those who were pregnant were given a choice: Get an abortion or lose your job. Ajose says she was one of three women firefighters who opted to terminate their pregnancies.

Back then, Ajose says, she and the women sued and eventually settled out of court. But, she says, the culture inside FEMS that conditioned her employment on whether or not she was pregnant continues today.

Ajose is one of four Black women who filed a lawsuit against the department this week alleging discrimination based on sex and gender. Their attorney, Pam Keith, is also representing several Black female Metropolitan Police Department officers and employees, who are making similar claims.

“The goal is to get the fire department to come to the table and fix these things,” Keith says, adding that her four clients—Ajose, Jadonna Sanders, Shalonda Smith, and Takeva Thomas—are some of the few who’ve made it in the department for several years.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that the four women have been subjected to disparate treatment in terms of bonus pay, disciplinary actions, and overtime opportunities.

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