Openly Gay Female Firefighter Hired by Eastside Fire & Rescue Receives Settlement for Wrongful Termination and Discrimination

Firm News Employment Law
Nov 01, 2023

An openly gay female firefighter who was hired – and subsequently terminated – by Eastside Fire & Rescue (EFR) recently accepted a settlement from EFR for discrimination and wrongful termination. The firefighter, Cori Latousek, was represented by attorneys Julie Kline, Rebecca Roe and Chen-Chen Jiang of the Seattle-based law firm Schroeter Goldmark & Bender (SGB).

Latousek, a gay woman with years of experience in law enforcement and first response, was recruited by EFR in 2021. However, throughout her employment at EFR, Latousek was held to different standards than her male and heterosexual female counterparts, and during her training and probationary period at EFR, experienced targeted and unfair discrimination based on her gender and sexuality.

Eventually, EFR terminated Latousek in the spring of 2022, after a post she made on her personal social media account. EFR falsely accused her of violating its policies and questioned her performance as a pretext, according to her attorneys.

“Ultimately, I was targeted, discriminated against, and fired because of who I was and not because of how I performed the job,” Latousek said. “I do not want anyone else to go through what I went through: termination because I am an openly gay woman.”

Witnesses testified that EFR’s double standards and unfair attacks began as early as Latousek’s initial interviews, when a chief expressed discomfort at her openness about her relationship with her wife, despite him having no issue with male firefighters discussing their own marriages. Latousek’s online presence – in particular, her personal Instagram account – was monitored and intensely scrutinized by the department while other recruits and firefighters received no such treatment.

“The bottom line is that Cori was fired because EFR was uncomfortable with her gender and sexuality. That is discrimination, and it is illegal,” said SGB attorney Julie Kline. “Her treatment was the result of an unchecked, toxic culture of bias that EFR must fix.”

Latousek hopes that by bringing her claims and accepting EFR’s settlement, it will encourage leadership to make meaningful changes that will create a more inclusive environment for diverse employees.

“Administrative changes are only the first step in fostering an inclusive and welcoming community for Eastside Fire recruits and those they serve,” said Latousek. “Eastside Fire needs a culture change to make these efforts meaningful.”