Second Nebraska Captain Alleges Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment

The Lincoln, Nebraska Fire and Rescue Department is facing a second federal lawsuit brought by a male firefighter alleging that after he reported sexual harassment of females in the department, he was passed over for promotion.

Captain Brian Giles filed suit last week in US District Court claiming that he was passed over for promotion to battalion chief on account of his having reported sexual harassment, and his having supported the accounts of sexual harassment by Captain Troy Hurd during an internal investigation.

Captain Hurd filed suit last year after being disciplined repeatedly for minor infractions following his reporting of harassment of a Kurdish female recruit by fellow instructors at Lincoln’s training academy. A subsequent HR investigation concluded Captain Hurd had been the victim of illegal retaliation, and his record was thereafter cleared. However, he was none-the-less passed over for promotion to battalion chief.

Captain Giles alleges that besides supporting Captain Hurd’s version of events, he witnessed and reported another captain for engaging is sexually discriminatory behavior.

  • On or about October 15, 2014, another female firefighter, (hereinafter “Female Firefighter “B”), was transferred to the same station as Brian, Station 8. The other captain at Station 8 was Captain Shawn Mahler.
  • When Mahler learned Female Firefighter B would be transferring to Station 8 he got into an argument with Brian because Mahler was upset Female Firefighter B was transferring to their station.
  • When Female Firefighter B arrived at their station, Mahler would rarely speak to her or would not allow her to rotate on to his truck. Female Firefighter B was the only female working at Station 8.
  • In December, 2014, Mahler told Female Firefighter B when she asked him for advice regarding applying for the rescue and hazmet crew that she should stick with medical or logistics because “typically women are less mechanically-minded than men.”
  • Mahler also told Female Firefighter B she would be required to be observed for 18 months before he decided she was competent to be on his truck. It was not standard procedure to observe a firefighter for 18 months before including them on a truck rotation.
  • Mahler denied Female Firefighter B training other male employees were receiving.
  • Mahler’s harassment and discrimination toward Female Firefighter B continued throughout 2015. Mahler intentionally manipulated the schedule, so Female Firefighter B would not rotate to his truck.
  • Brian complained multiple times to [Battalion Chief] Eric Jones throughout 2015 that Mahler was treating Female Firefighter B unfairly and discriminating against her by manipulating the schedule so he would not have to ride with Female Firefighter B or provide her training.
  • Jones would state that he was going to rectify the situation, allegedly addressed Mahler regarding the discriminatory treatment, but then eventually apologized to Mahler because Mahler refused to speak to him following the oral counseling.
  • On or about August 17, 2015, Brian again reported to Jones that Mahler was discriminating against Female Firefighter B and denying her training because of her sex. Brian again reported that Mahler was manipulating the schedule to avoid training Female Firefighter B, and he was making her drive the ambulance more frequently than the male firefighters.
  • Following Brian’s complaints to Jones, Jones asked Giles if he felt that Mahler would be best suited to be placed in a one apparatus station. Giles told Jones that he was the Battalion Chief and that was his decision to make but that he could not continue to ignore Mahler’s discriminatory treatment of Firefighter B.
  • On or about December 21, 2015, Female Firefighter B was on kitchen duty and had already swept the area in accordance with her kitchen duty responsibilities. Brian and Female Firefighter B had not participated in the station meal, which meant, according to house policy, they were not required to clean up. However, Brian and Female Firefighter B offered to clean up in order to help the firefighters who cooked the meal take a break. Mahler came in to eat lunch and there were still dishes in the sink; he said loudly, “whoever the kitchen man is, need to do his job!” Mahler then made Female Firefighter B hand-wash all the dishes. Brian and Female Firefighter B both complained to the City’s administration regarding the incident.

Here is a copy of Giles’ complaint: Giles v Lincoln

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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