Feds Sue City of Houston After Male Firefighters Urinated on Female Living Quarters
HOUSTON, TX — Female firefighters weren’t welcome at Houston’s Station 54. That’s what the U.S. Department of Justice argues in a Title VII lawsuit it filed today. Title VII protects women from discrimination based on sex as set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964
According to the DoJ complaint, two women assigned to HFD’s Station 54 endured a hostile work environment. There, male firefighters urinated on the walls, floors and sinks of the women’s restroom and dormitory. They also disconnected the cold water, subjecting the women to scolding hot showers. Then, the speakers in the women’s quarters were disconnected so the female firefighters wouldn’t know to respond to emergency calls.
In addition, the DoJ alleges that the women suffered death threats and vulgar slurs written on the walls of their work and living spaces, as well as on their personal belongings, at the fire station.
The feds are representing two women, Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes. Draycott, the lawsuit alleges, was retaliated against when she complained. The HFD permitted her co-workers to publically disparage her in an attempt to prevent her from returning to work at the fire station. She was forced to retire early, the complaint states.
The feds state that the two women at the center of the lawsuit are not the first. Previous complaints by other women fell on deaf ears at HFD, the DoJ states.
Previous to the lawsuit, both Draycott and Keyes filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency whose purpose is to investigate and enforce the laws in these kinds of occurrences. The EEOC attempted to conciliate the charges, but was unsuccessful. Then the EEOC referred the case to the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of Texas.
The City of Houston and the offices of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner were mum on the charges Wednesday when the Texas Tribune attempted to obtain their reaction. The Houston Chronicle reported that the firefighters' union complained that male firefighters fingered as culprits in the incidents were exonerated, but the City of Houston never cleared their names. They are seeking transparency by asking the City to release the findings of an investigation into the incident referenced in Wednesday's DoJ lawsuit.
This case is a high profile lawsuit as part of a new initiative by the DoJ to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace. The initiative, set into action by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is called “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative.”
This is the second initiative the Trump Administration has implemented to address sexual harassment. In Oct. 2017, the DoJ initiated the “Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative.”