Declaring her a victim of sexual discrimination, the D.C. Office of Human Rights has ordeed Laura B. Samuel restored to duty as a firefighter trainee in the city's Fire Department.
Hired on Aug, 27, the 27-year-old Samuel was the third woman chosen for training in the department. On Oct. 13, she told she had not met academic requirements of the training program, and later was informed she would be fired. She appealed, charging sexual bias.
In an order released yesterday, James W. Baldwin, director of the Office Human Rights, upheld her claim that she was "subjected to undue stress... because of her six" both in academic training and in being "required to perform difficult physical exercises that had not been required of previous trainess."
Baldwin directed the Fire Department to "recyle" Samuel into the next training class for firefighters without losing seniority or benefits.
Fire Chief Jefferson W. Lewis refused to comment on Baldwin's order, saying he had not read it. Lewis can appeal the order to acting city administrator Julian R. Dugas.
Samuel could not be reached for comment.
Noting that the Fire Department was until recently an all-male preserve, Baldwin said the city has a greater responsiblity than private employers to ensure bias-free employment.
"In this case," Baldwin wrote, "the (Fire) Department, with only a minimum of prudence, could foresee the difficulties ahead for female firefighter trainees."
According to Baldwin's order, Samuel's academic failure was marginal, with her average of 67.6 just below the passing grade of 70.
Moreover, Samuel "did not receive counseling in a timely manner" that might have permitted her to overcome the shortcomings, Baldwin said.