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

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)

  • drozone69

    If she can’t put out a mans fire,or even start one,then what the hell good is she?Also she is in a very high AIDS risk group due to he lack of choices in healthy lifestyles.

    • Crystal

      Thats the stupidest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  • George

    Oh puuhhlleeaassee. You can’t fire anyone who is gay, female, black, hispanic or anything else, because it’s discrimination. They’re all completely competent and and excellent at what they do, and are far and away the best person for the job.

    Give me a break, the only people you can fire, demote, or pass up for promotion are white males; otherwise it’s surely discrimination (and highly profitable for those claiming discrimination).

    • Saber 1

      Were forced with their lifestyle, they force it on everyone and expect people to embrace it. No one wants a pole smoker or carpet muncher as a boss. Find an island and she can play a man over there.

  • AnInjuredman=Justin Wilkes

    I am impressed. The road Cathleen has chosen to take is not an easy one, let alone popular. However, it’s a choice born out of strong unwaivering moral & ethical character, and duty to ones community. Stand up with Cathleen, stand up for transparency in your city councils affairs. Be a part of making your community a better place.

  • Female Fire Chief Sues California City For Discrimination | Fire Law

    […] For more on the story. […]

  • Marsha

    Cathleen Orchard is a disgrace to the fire service and all women trying to climb the ladder. As a firefighter’s wife and woman, I’m dissappointed that Orchard has these ridiculous allegations out there, especially against the same governing board/council that gave her the opportunity to be “one of only about 65 female chiefs nationwide and one of about five in the state,” I have no problem with women in the fire services, but if you are not perfoming by the same regulations, standard and requirements as all the others…then get out.

    I would hope that the city council, that is voted by the community would question the power and/or abuse of power that is occuring in their city, that’s their job! Orchard appears to be upset that the city council criticized her perfomance as a leader and chief and can only react by pulling the gender card! Yes I said it…we can’t continue to use this as a scapegoat. This is becoming more and more of a pattern, and its dissappointing!

    Take ownership of your horrible leadership Orchard…it wasn’t about gender and/or sexual orientation. It was about your inabiltiy to lead that department and gain respect from the men and women that looked to you for leadership and guidance. You were in the chief position for approximately 6 years..and only now you state these allegations….sounds fishy to me.

    Orchard couldn’t take the heat…therefore get out…for the safety of my husband, and all the other husand’s, wives, partners, sons, daughters, etc that serve in the fire service.

  • Justin Wilkes

    Marsha you sound so hateful. You make very broad statements that aren’t really backed by any information. Here’s a bit of information.. Your city councils pays people to stay quite and subverts the law to further their own careers. Which ends up being paid by you. The sheep that blindly follow..

  • Justin Wilkes


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