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Ruling awards woman firefighter back pay, possible promotion

METHUEN, Mass. (AP) — The Civil Service Commission has ruled in favor of a Methuen firefighter who said she was passed over for a promotion to captain because she is a woman and because of favoritism within the department.

The ruling requires that Tracy Blanchette receive back pay at a captain’s salary level dating to February 2019, when she was passed over, The Eagle-Tribune reported Tuesday. The city must also decide whether to promote her or create an equal supervisory position.

“The violation of civil service law in this appeal has been shown to be intolerable,” Commissioner Cynthia Ittleman wrote in the decision following a Nov. 18 vote of the five-member commission.

Mayor Neil Perry and Fire Chief Tim Sheehy both referred requests for comment to the city's lawyer.

“The matter is under review and we have no further comment at this time,” city attorney Peter McQuillan said.

Witness testimony described a “mutual back-scratching employment culture” among male members of the department. Blanchette said she was bypassed for a promotion in favor of a close friend of the chief.

Blanchette was the city's first female firefighter when she was hired in 1993. She has also filed a sexual discrimination suit against the city, seeking $2.75 million in damages.



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