Jury Finds San Jose Fire Department Retaliated Against Firefighter

A South Bay firefighter is celebrating a win Friday after a jury found the San Jose Fire Department retaliated against her after she claimed she was passed over for promotions because she's a woman.

"It's overwhelming for someone to say we heard you," SJFD Battalion Chief Patricia Tapia said.

Tapia burst into tears when the jury announced its verdict, saying the fire department did retaliate against her.

"It's the leadership that needs to be held accountable for the way they treat the employees of the fire department," Tapia said.

Tapia said she applied for 10 promotions in the last five years and has been denied each time.

In 2012, Tapia and her colleague Debra Ward settled a discrimination lawsuit, but said following the case they were both punished for speaking up.

"Maybe it has changed something," Ward said. "Maybe they'll think twice before doing it again."

On Friday, the jury did not find that the city or fire department had discriminated or retaliated against Ward, who is now retired. She calls the verdict a dissapointment.

"We strive to make this a safe workplace for everyone," San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle said.

Doyle stopped short of saying the culture at the fire department needed to change, but did say "education, awareness and a little more sensitivity" will be looked at.

Those are things Ward and Tapia are hoping to see more of.

"I'll keep raising my hand and opening my mouth in doing whatever it takes and make sure others follow behind me," Tapia said. "It's important."

Tapia won about $800,000 in damages. Ward's lawyer said they will consider an appeal.

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