Firefighter Wins over $6M in Harassment Suit

July 5, 2007 ( - A firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department who claimed she was harassed by colleagues because she is black and a lesbian has been awarded $6.2 million.

The Associated Press reports that Brenda Lee said in her lawsuit her superiors made derogatory comments about her and forced her to perform strenuous exercises without proper safety precautions because of her race and sexual orientation. Lee also claimed someone mixed urine in her mouthwash.

The jury who decided on the award on Tuesday was ordered back to court Thursday for a second phase of the trial involving possible punitive damages against Lee’s former supervisor, Capt. Christopher Hare, the AP said. Lee’s settlement is just one of a string of settlements of cases alleging discrimination and retaliation against women and minorities within the L.A. Fire Department.

Two other firefighters in the lawsuit won jury awards after their cases were tried separately. In addition, in April, a jury awarded $1.7 million to Lewis Bressler, who claimed he was forced to retire for backing Lee in her claims of discrimination, while Gary Mellinger, who alleged the department retaliated against him after he helped Lee, settled with the city for $350,000 after a jury found in his favor.