Kansas City looks to upgrade fire stations for women - KCTV5 News

Kansas City looks to upgrade fire stations for women

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The first women firefighters in Kansas City filed a discrimination lawsuit more than decade ago that asked for changes that are just now under way.

Kansas City could soon spend close to $1 million to upgrade nine fire stations to make sure women firefighters can shower, sleep and use the restroom in private.

In 1977, Anne Wedow, Carolyn Y. Mitchell and Kathleen Kline became the first women firefighters in Kansas City.

According to two of the women who filed 12 years ago, even though female gear was available, the women were given men's clothing too big to wear, and they would trip over their pants or drop hoses because their gloves were too big.

"A lot of the concerns had to do with the bunk room facility. A lot of times it is just a big open dormitory type room. This plan will help with portions and make individual spaces in the bunk room," said Deputy Chief of Technical Services Donna Maize. "Everybody needs to have that little bit of privacy especially at night."

According to the lawsuit back in the 1970s, women's restrooms were used to store the fire station dog's food and had sexually explicit posters and magazines. However, times have changed.

"We've made those steps like put locks on bathroom doors. As we built new facilities, obviously they've been more individualized where everyone has their own space for sleeping area and restrooms for male, female," Maize said.

City officials say there is still work to be done at nine fire stations around Kansas City.

"A lot of these facilities were build in the late '60s early '70s, so it's just something that needs to be, as time and money permits, get back into today's standards," Maize said.

Because firefighters work 24-hour shifts, Maize says it is important renovations comply with today's standards.

"Those fire stations are kind of a home away from home for the employees who are in them," Maize said.

Renovations will include bunk cubicles, separate women's restrooms and showers that come with locks.

Back when the women filed the lawsuit, a judge denied their motion for an injunction ordering the city fix the disparities immediately.

At the time, the court ruled it didn't need to force the city because it had a 15-year plan to renovate all of its stations. Now, it looks like that plan is under way 12 years later.

A jury awarded $50,000 to Kline. A separate jury awarded Wedow $285,000.

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