Mass. FF promoted to captain after winning discrimination battle

Tracy Blanchette has been promoted to captain after a state board said she was wrongly passed over for the promotion previously


Jill Harmacinski
The Eagle-Tribune

METHUEN, Mass. — Veteran Firefighter Tracy Blanchette has been promoted to the rank of captain after a state board said she was wrongly passed over for the promotion previously.

City Councilors this week approved the promotion at the request of Fire Chief Tim Sheehy who shared details about Blanchette's fire career, noting both her husband, David Blanchette, and father, Dennis Ouellette, are retired Lawrence and Methuen firefighters respectively.

"I would like to congratulate Tracy on her promotion and welcome her on her new role as captain in the Methuen Fire Department," Sheehy said Thursday.

Councilor Steve Saba offered Blanchette immediate congratulations.

"I know it's been a tough road for her," he said.

The Civil Service Commission in November ruled in favor of Blanchette, saying she was passed over for the promotion from private to captain because she is a woman, as well as due to department favoritism.

The ruling also required she receive back pay at a captain's salary level dating back to February 2019, when she was passed over for a position.

It was unclear Thursday how much Blanchette will receive in back pay.

Blanchette and other witnesses testified before the commission that a "mutual back-scratching employment culture" that's available to male, but not female, firefighters exists at the Methuen Fire Department, according to the decision.

According to the decision, Blanchette said she was bypassed for a promotion in favor of Matthew Tulley, a close friend of the chief, and further ostracized in the department.

The city's first female firefighter who joined the department in 1993, Blanchette also filed a sexual discrimination suit in Essex Superior Court in November 2020, seeking $2.75 million in damages for back pay, lost wages, pension benefits and emotional distress.

That suit followed her complaint with the Civil Service Commission.

Blanchette has an associate's degree in fire science from North Shore Community College and graduated from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy in 1995.

During her MFD career, Blanchette has been an EMT on the department ambulance and has worked at various firehouses throughout the city.

Blanchette was working Tuesday night when her promotion was approved by the City Council, Sheehy said.

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(c)2022 The Eagle-Tribune 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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