– The Division on Civil Rights announced
today that a South Jersey fire company has
paid a female firefighter $15,000 and agreed
to have its members undergo sexual harassment
training to resolve allegations the woman
suffered gender-based discrimination, and
was later targeted for retaliation for reporting
Under terms of the agreement Clementon Fire
and Rescue of Clementon, Camden County,
paid firefighter Merrissa V. Garretson $15,000
last month. The fire company also agreed
to give Garretson a positive letter of employment
reference whenever contacted by a prospective
employer. Garretson resigned from Clementon
Fire and Rescue in April 2010. As part of
the settlement with Garretson, the fire
company made no admission of liability.
is a fair settlement that resolves troubling
allegations of discrimination against a
young woman in a male-dominated work environment,”
said Division on Civil Rights Director Chinh
Q. Le. “No employee should be treated
like a second-class citizen because of his
or her gender, and no worker should suffer
reprisals for having reported such treatment.”
At age 13, Merrissa Garretson began her
employment with Clementon Fire and Rescue
in May 2003 as an Explorer. She was promoted
to Junior Firefighter in July 2006, and
promoted again to Probationary Firefighter
in July 2008. In December 2008, Garretson
was promoted to the position of Firefighter.
At all times, she was a volunteer employee
and was not paid by the fire company.
to her formal Complaint, Garretson approached
the fire company’s deputy chief, Randall
Freiling, in March 2009 to report repeated,
discriminatory remarks by a male firefighter
that were demeaning to women generally,
and derogatory toward Garretson in particular.
Garretson alleged that she later approached
Clementon Borough Administrator Jenai L.
Johnson, in July 2009, with the same information.
the aftermath of those two conversations,
Garretson received a letter from Administrator
Johnson – in August 2009 -- advising
that a thorough investigation had been conducted,
and that corrective action had been taken.
Garretson charged in her Complaint, she
saw no evidence of a thorough investigation
or corrective action.
To the contrary, Garretson alleged, she
was subjected after reporting her concerns
to such actions as being “bumped”
from fire truck assignments in favor of
less qualified, less experienced junior
firefighters, and having her gear removed
from her locker. Garretson filed her formal
Complaint with the Division on Civil Rights
in November 2009.
Le thanked Division Investigator Maurice
Sykes and John Beauchamp, Regional Supervisor
in the Division’s Camden Office, for
their work on the Garretson matter.