Lincoln firefighter files lawsuit over sex discrimination

July 11, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Lincoln firefighter is suing department officials and the city, saying she was discriminated against as a woman and faced a hostile work environment after filing complaints.

Amber Benson’s lawsuit follows two others filed by Lincoln Fire and Rescue employees alleging their bosses retaliated against them for reporting harassment of female firefighters, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The latest lawsuit alleges that Capt. Shawn Mahler was visibly upset after learning that Benson would be replacing a male firefighter in 2014. Mahler refused to speak to Benson for several days after she began her assignment and prohibited her from rotating onto the firetruck, said Kelly Brandon, Benson’s lawyer.

City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said Tuesday that he hasn’t received the lawsuit. The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission already investigated Benson’s case and didn’t find evidence of discrimination or retaliation, he said.

Benson alleges that Mahler discouraged her from rotating onto the firetruck because “typically women are less mechanically-minded.” Mahler also arbitrarily placed her on 18 months of observation, though he didn’t require the same of male firefighters, according to the lawsuit.

Benson eventually transferred to another station and no longer works with Mahler.

Two captains, Brian Giles and Troy Hurd, are already suing the department , claiming they were passed up for promotions as a result of filing complaints over the harassment. Giles noted some of instances involving Benson in his lawsuit filed last year.

Kirkpatrick said it’s not surprising that tension arises in the fire department since it’s a stressful environment and employees spend long hours together.

Benson’s attorney is requesting a judge issue an injunction to stop the city and its employees from “engaging in any employment practice which discriminates on the basis of sex and retaliation.”

Benson also seeks lost earnings, punitive damages and all negative reports or evaluations erased from her personnel file.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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