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Monterey Park’s Ex-Fire Chief Suing Over Sexual Orientation Discrimination

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Monterey Park’s ex-fire chief is suing the city, alleging she suffered disparate treatment and harassment and was forced out because she is gay.

Cathleen Orchard’s lawsuit alleges discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, harassment, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She also claims the stress from the alleged mistreatment forced her to leave her job, and says she has been unable to return to work.

City Attorney Mark Hensley could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Orchard was hired by the city as a training officer in May 1999 and was appointed chief in June 2005. She was one of only about 65 female chiefs nationwide and one of about five in the state, according to her complaint.

The alleged mistreatment began before Orchard was named chief when she was not given the same protective gear as male firefighters, according to her court papers. Upon being named chief, city council members were “visibly agitated when (Orchard’s) partner was included in the traditional portion of the presentation devoted to spouses,” she claims.

Orchard also contends she was subjected to excessive scrutiny and criticism by city officials, including a berating by one council member concerning her choice of a location for the construction of a new fire station. She says the site favored by the council violated a city ordinance precluding the building of such facilities in city parks, and was “dangerously located close to a school.”

She also maintains she was further shunned by three council members after she recommended that two paramedics be fired for falsifying a report concerning their treatment of an injured man.

“When it became clear that (Orchard) would not turn a blind eye to the misconduct of the two paramedics, various council members and Monterey Park personnel engaged in adverse employment actions that can only be described as a systematic attempt to discredit (her) or lay the foundation for her ultimate termination,” her suit alleges.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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