San Jose Fire Department Faces Gender Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

30-year veteran firefighter says she was passed up for promotion because she is a woman

For the second time in five years, the San Jose Fire Department is facing a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.

Two San Jose firefighters say they've been passed up for promotion because they are women. One of them, Station 2 Battalion chief Patricia Tapia, spoke exclusively with NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo, saying she's not afraid to take on the city or her department when she sees something wrong.

Tapia and a colleague settled a discrimination lawsuit against the city back in 2012, but she says, since then, the department has thwarted her attempts to move up the ranks to division chief and deputy chief.

So, Tapia and her colleague filed another suit, just approved by a judge.

"We're forced back into litigation to get answers as to why women can't serve in the higher ranks of the San Jose Fire Department," Tapia said.

The city is firing back.

"The best qualified candidates have been promoted," said San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle, adding the city has zero tolerance for gender discrimination or retaliation, and he intends to fight Tapia's charges.

"When you hear those allegations, it stings, because we take this seriously," he said. "In this case, we don't think it exists, and we'll defend this case."

Both sides will be back in court next month to set a trial date.

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