Fort Worth Sued Over Sexual Harassment

A female firefighter who was forced to take a medical retirement from the Fort Worth Fire Department has filed a 55-page, 330-paragraph, ten-count complaint naming the city and five officers, accusing them of sexual harassment and violating her civil rights.

Identified in the complaint as Jane Doe, the firefighter claims she was sexually assaulted while on-duty by supervisors, who created a culture that “that treated woman as sexual objects instead of respected co-workers.” The complaint includes an assortment of allegations including that she was wrongfully disciplined, subjected to hostile work conditions, and victimized whenever she reported misconduct.

Among most serious allegations leveled by Doe:

  • A male coworker threatened to kill her while at work, and when she reported the threat, she was transferred and nothing happened to the threat-maker;
  • She was harassed and sexually assaulted by her supervisor;
  • After being transferred she was sexually harassed and assaulted by another supervisor;
  • After yet another transfer, she was harassed by yet another supervisor who followed her into the fire station gym, and masturbated as he watched her work out. This reportedly occurred on three occasions.
  • When her 8-year old daughter stopped by the station for a visitation, a firefighter smacked Doe on her butt hard enough to leave a bruise. In tears Doe fled to the bathroom, and later struggled to explain to her daughter what had happened. When Doe reported the assault, she included a photo of the mark that was left on her. The supervisor not only did nothing to address the assault, he photoshopped a smiley face, several kisses, and several finger emojis onto the photo and sent it back to her.

The suit was filed yesterday in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. According to the complaint, the stress of the harassment exacerbated Doe’s pre-existing epileptic condition which ultimately led to her dismissal. As explained in the complaint:

  • The unrelenting sexual assault and harassment took a significant toll on Jane Doe and her epileptic episodes continued to worsen throughout the rest of 2017 until eventually on December 27, 2017 she was involved in a motor vehicle collision.
  • While off-duty, Jane Doe had an epileptic seizure and crashed her car.
  • After the incident, Christian Harvey—a captain of the Fort Worth Fire Department—immediately reported her to internal affairs, including her diagnosed seizure disorder.
  • Captain Harvey did not work within Jane Doe’s station, and she was not his responsibility.
  • The Internal affairs division proceeded to take Jane Doe off duty without a hearing or ability to contest their findings.
  • This was due to a condition that the Fort Worth Fire Department was already aware of and had known about for years.
  • Ultimately, due to the stress, anxiety, and shame she had been under for the past 5 years of her life at the FWFD, Jane Doe was forced into an early medical retirement on July 31, 2018. Jane Doe did so against her will. She was denied her full pension.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

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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