A female firefighter is suing her former department after claiming she was fired over photos posted to her Instagram account.
Presley Pritchard, a former firefighter paramedic with the Evergreen Fire Rescue in Kalispell, Mont., said she was let go from her job last August after being "directly targeted due to how I looked in my gym attire," among other factors related to her social media presence. She has now filed a wrongful termination lawsuit that accuses her superiors of gender discrimination, the Daily Inter Lake reports.
Pritchard's lawsuit states that she was unfairly singled out for her status as a fitness influencer. The 27-year-old has nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram, where she typically shares photos and videos of her workout routine as well as inspirational messages and posts promoting her several partnerships with wellness brands.
But that online presence, which Prichard has contended was completely separate from her job, began causing issues in 2018, when Jack Fallon, a member of the Evergreen Fire District Board, began raising concerns about the account. Pritchard told VIce that those concerns continued throughout the following year.
"It was just ongoing — they would call me in for everything,” she said. “It was just always like walking on eggshells there."
The firefigther told Vice she was reprimanded about 20 times for issues involving her account, including what she wore to the gym and in other photos on the page. Most of Pritchard's photos feature her dressed in workout clothes, but others show her in bathing suits, posing with friends or shooting guns.
"I actually got issued men's uniform pants. So I was like wow, fine, I'll wear men's pants! Are you serious? Am I supposed to leave my butt at home?”
Pritchard added that despite the harassment she faced, she saw her male colleagues participate in similar behavior — she showed Vice multiple photos of male firefighters from her former department posing shirtless on social media.
"It's just really, really hypocritical," she told Vice. "It just sucks, because you see firefighters out here with these sexy firefighter calendars, and if females did that, they would literally be like, beaten to death."
According to Pritchard's lawsuit, she was ultimately fired after being asked to remove several photos of her in her firefighter uniform, as her bosses said it blurred the line between her work and her personal brand. However, the 27-year-old told Vice that a lawyer told her she didn't need to remove the photos, as her department did not have any sort of standard social media policy.
But Pritchard said was still fired for not removing the photos. She filed her lawsuit in December, claiming she was ultimately let go due to sexism and a double standard favoring men. Nationally, fire departments are largely a male-dominated workspace — only 7 percent of all firefighters are female, according to the latest data from the National Fire Protection Association.
"Everybody knows that's how the fire service is, and the military, and law enforcement, when you're in it," she told Vice.
Pritchard's lawsuit is reportedly still underway, and a state investigator has been assigned to her case. In the meantime, she has been able to apply for unemployment.