Woman Wins Bias Suit Against Madeira and Indian Hill, Ohio Joint Fire District Fire/EMT Unit

As a part-time firefighter, Barbara Barthel worked hard to catch the boss's eye so she could be promoted to full-time and maybe even captain.


Hamilton County, OH -- As a part-time firefighter, Barbara Barthel worked hard to catch the boss's eye so she could be promoted to full-time and maybe even captain.

When that didn't happen after eight years as a part-timer -- younger men were hired for jobs she sought on at least three occasions, she said -- Barthel sued the Madeira and Indian Hill Joint Fire District. She accused it and Chief Steven Ashbrock of age and sex discrimination.

A Hamilton County jury agreed with her Thursday and ordered Ashbrock and the district to pay Barthel $253,000 -- $63,000 in back pay and $190,000 in punishment damages.

"We also are going to ask that they instate her as a full-time firefighter," her attorney, Marc Mezibov, said after the verdict, indicating he also will ask that the fire division to pay her legal fees.

Barthel, 49, joined the joint fire district as a part-time firefighter and emergency medical technician in February 1995.

At the time Barthel filed her 2003 lawsuit, the fire district employed 16 full-time firefighters and paramedics and 29 part-time employees, including Barthel.

She was passed over repeatedly for full-time jobs when the district hired younger male colleagues, her suit contended, or hired from outside the department.

"Females and/or applicants over the age of 40 are routinely denied full-time firefighter/EMT-paramedic positions and are relegated to part-time employment," Mezibov pointed out in court documents, noting there were no full-time female firefighters.

Barthel was hurt by such practices, he added, because full-time firefighters receive more money, benefits and a consistent work schedule compared to part-timers. Part-timers get no benefits.

Barthel said Ashbrock told her he would never hire her full-time because she was female and too old.

In 2002, Barthel was one of four finalists for a full-time job as firefighter and paramedic. Instead, the job went to a younger man who wasn't even a certified EMT-paramedic when he was hired, her suit said.

Two weeks after that, a 32-year-old man with less work experience than Barthel also was hired over her for a full-time job.

That's when she filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Jurors agreed that she was discriminated against when she wasn't promoted to a full-time firefighter/EMT but disagreed with her claims that was the reason she was denied a captain's job.