Fired firefighter gets hired back

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. - A firefighter is fired over gender discrimination, only to be hired back a couple of years later.

It's the biggest issue in an ongoing battle playing out in the Monarch Fire Protection District. One of the female firefighters who filed the suit says she never wanted it to get that far. But, she says she felt she'd run out of options. So, she went to court, and won her case only to have the issue come back to haunt her.

That firefighter is Donna Kessler. She's worked for the department for around 20 years. So, when she says she was treated differently because she was a woman, she hoped her superiors would fix the problem. But, that didn't happen.

"I was just threatened and told to stay away from the boys," said Kessler.

Years went by, and finally, Donna and another female firefighter felt they had run out of options. So, they filed their case in court and won. The department appealed, but lost the appeal, with a judge calling the district's working environment "abusive."

"That's when I thought everything would get better. I thought our department really made strides to correct this issue," said Kessler.

Four people were fired. But then, a new board of directors took office, and just recently one of the men fired in the wake of the suit, Cary Spiegel, was re-hired as the assistant chief.

"This is somebody who has threatened me before. And now he's going to be directly in charge of my safety," said Kessler.

But the two board members who voted to rehire him call him a man of "integrity."

"He is not attempting to do anything other than perform the job that he loves. And he is not focused on the past but wanting to look forward into the future," said President of the Board of Directors, Robin Harris.

Harris also says he believed Spiegel should have never been fired because he says the lawsuit was filed against the department and not against Spiegel. Another board member has called the suit a political move by the firefighter union.

"I was very appalled and disturbed by that. This was never a ploy by the union, this has everything to do with human rights," said Kessler.

The board says it did not speak with Kessler or the other woman who won the lawsuit when making the decision to hire Spiegel, because it says that is not normal protocol. There are three people on the board. We're told one of them voted to not re-hire Spiegel.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Spiegel for comment but did not hear back.


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