Nebraska Firefighter Sues Over Race and Gender Discrimination

An Omaha firefighter has filed suit claiming she has been the victim of race and gender discrimination during her brief tenure on the department. Jane Crudup filed suit February 5, 2021 in US District Court for the District of Nebraska.

Crudup was hired on January 14, 2019, and claims her difficulties started at her first probationary assignment when a white officer told her she could not study until after 8PM. She claims that during her next assignment a white firefighter was allowed to study before 8PM constituting disparate treatment.

She alleges that in June of 2019, a white officer told her to “shut up and listen to what others are trying to say,” and later “you need to learn how to take a joke and laugh at yourself, if you want to have some longevity with the Fire Department.” The complaint continues:

  • On or around October 2019, Plaintiff’s supervisor, Captain Scott Schendt, a white male, made the remark, “I would shoot it” in response to watching a television show called, Tosh.0 at Station 41, where a white female actor self-identified as an African-American female, in the episode’s plot.
  • Plaintiff was in the kitchen doing dishes, and overheard Captain Scott Schendt make this remark.
  • Captain Scott Schendt’s comment further compromised Plaintiff’s trust and the fire department’s commitment to diversity.
  • After Plaintiff’s work shift on March 2, 2020, Plaintiff in the course of her employment, left her turnout gear—which consists of Plaintiff’s personal firefighter coat, pants, boots and helmet at Station 41 where she worked and was to report to work on March 3, 2020, after an off-site routine training emergency medical examination.
  • On March 3, 2020 after Plaintiff completed her emergency medical examination, Plaintiff reported to Station 41 to find her turnout gear hanging from public flagpole. The manner in which Plaintiff’s turnout gear was positioned was alarming.
  • Plaintiff found her helmet hanging above her firefighting coat, displayed in an order, simulating a hanging or public lynching of Plaintiff.
  • Plaintiff’s supervisor Captain Scott Schendt, a white male, saw Plaintiff’s helmet hanging above her firefighting coat, displayed in an order, simulating a hanging or public lynching of Plaintiff on a public flagpole, yet he failed take corrective measures.
  • On or around March 14, 2020, during a routine run for fuel for Truck 41, Firefighter Chris Vacek, a white male, attempted to drive off while Plaintiff was climbing in from fueling Truck 41, causing her to almost fall from the moving truck.
  • When Plaintiff confronted Firefighter Chris Vacek, a white male about compromising Plaintiff’s health and safety, thus creating a potentially perilous situation for her, Chris Vacek laughed and said, “I thought you were inside the truck.”
  • When Plaintiff said “No, I was not.” Chris Vacek changed his response, to, “I thought you decided to go with Truck 53” [which simultaneously pulled up for fuel]. Plaintiff’s supervisor Captain Scott Schendt, a white male was present on Truck 41 and witnessed Chris Vacek’s behavior, yet he failed to act or correct.
  • Plaintiff has been on leave from her work as a firefighter since May 22, 2020, due to various psychiatric comorbidities and mental anguish proximately caused by subjected discrimination and harassment based on race, sex and color, stemming from her employment with the City of Omaha as a Firefighter.

The suit alleges race and gender discrimination under federal and state law. Here is a copy of the complaint.

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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