A second Lincoln Fire and Rescue captain has filed a federal lawsuit against the department saying he faced retaliation for reporting harassment of two female firefighters between 2012 and 2015.
Captains Brian Giles and Troy Hurd said they were passed up for promotions. They contend firefighters who were less qualified, had less experience and scored lower than them on promotion tests got the jobs.
Hurd also reported facing other disciplinary actions as a result of his complaints, the lawsuits claims.
Hurd filed a federal lawsuit last year and a jury trial is scheduled for 2018, according to records.
In the new lawsuit filed Wednesday by Giles, Gretna attorney Kelly K. Brandon wrote Giles and Hurd first heard about harassment complaints from one of the women, who was a personal friend of Giles', in 2012. Both firefighters reported her complaints to management, the court document says. Only one of the women is still with the department.
Hurd later completed the city’s workplace harassment form, which opened an investigation by Kim Taylor-Riley, the city's director of equity and diversity, into his complaint of retaliation. She found that at least three chiefs disciplined Hurd four times over the course of two years and that now-retired Chief John Huff blocked him from a temporary promotion that came with a 10 percent pay bump.
The report led Mayor Chris Beutler to pull all disciplinary actions against Hurd from his file. Beutler also approved Public Safety Director Tom Casady’s plan to address management issues at LFR, including retaliation and inconsistent discipline.
Lincoln City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said the plan from Casady has been successfully implemented.
"We're making sure it's a welcoming workplace and you don't have people that are being bulled or harassed," he said. "That's an ongoing commitment that Chief (Micheal) Despain has made."
Giles was also involved in Taylor-Riley’s investigation, which was completed in 2014, and he supported Hurd's allegations of retaliation.
Later a second employee told Giles she was also experiencing harassment. The woman had been transferred to Station 8, which allegedly upset the station’s captain, Shawn Mahler.
She was the only woman at the station. The complaint doesn't say how Giles knew the woman.
In December 2014, the woman expressed interest in applying for the rescue and hazmat crew, but Mahler allegedly told her she should stick with the medical or logistics teams because, “typically women are less mechanically-minded than men,” the document says.
He also subjected her to 18 months of observation before he would decide if she was competent enough to run on his truck. It’s not standard procedure for firefighters to undergo such observation, the document says.
Giles complained to Battalion Chief Eric Jones, who told him he would rectify the situation. Again in August 2015, Giles reported to Jones that Mahler was denying the woman training because of her sex. The Station 8 schedule was also being manipulated so she was assigned to drive the ambulance more than her male counterparts, the document says.
Giles' last report was made in December that year. The retaliation against him has continued since, the document says.
Giles filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission in June 2016 and expects to receive a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before the case goes to trial.
Kirkpatrick said he was familiar with the NEOC complaint, which Giles filed the day before its deadline. Kirkpatrick said it's his understanding that the promotional procedures went they way it should have gone.
Giles is accusing Public Safety Director Tom Casady, Assistant Chief Pat Borer and battalion chiefs Jones and Tim Linke of retaliation and fostering an illegal retaliatory hostile work environment by treating people who complain about discrimination differently than other employees. He also alleges the City of Lincoln violated the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act.
Giles and Hurd seek unspecified damages and are asking for punitive damages to punish the defendants and deter others from doing the same.