The Boston Fire Department has reached a $3.2 million settlement with a former employee who said the department discriminated and retaliated against her after a fellow firefighter was convicted of sexually assaulting her.
David Sanchez was convicted in January of 2020 of assaulting Nathalie Fontanez in a Jamaica Plain firehouse in 2018.
Sanchez was convicted in a jury trial and ordered by a Boston judge to probation and to register as a sex offender. Ultimately, Fontanez's lawyers said in a statement, the court agreed with a motion from the defense to allow Sanchez to avoid registering as a sex offender. Sanchez resigned from the fire department.
For years before the assault — since her first day on the job in 2011 — Fontanez said she felt unsupported by the Boston Fire Department.
"I felt like a second-class citizen amongst my colleagues," Fontanez said. "I'm not a veteran, I'm not a man — I'm a Latin woman. If there was a totem pole, I was at the very bottom."
Fontanez said after Sanchez's conviction, the department failed to take appropriate steps to help her continue her career. According to her lawyers, Fontanez was the only woman in her shift group and frequently, the only woman in the firehouse.
The Boston Fire Department said in a statement that the city launched an independent review into the department to look at the culture for female firefighters, and subsequently hired a former female firefighter to conduct discrimination and harassment trainings for its firefighters and officers.
"This behavior and these actions will never be tolerated and we will continue taking the steps needed to ensure a safe, welcoming and inclusive workplace for everyone working in the department," the department said.
This article was originally published on January 13, 2021.