Video Evidence Not Enough in Austin Sex Harassment Case

A Texas jury has ruled in favor of the Austin Fire Department in a gender discrimination case brought by a female firefighter. Firefighter Nona Allen claimed she was subjected to a hostile work environment, and produced several videos to support her case. Here is one of them:

The jury rendered their verdict on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 and according to one web source concluded Allen had been harassed, and that the city knew about the harassment, but disagreed that the harassment was so severe that it affected the terms and conditions of her employment.

The verdict is unusual in that most cases of sexual harassment in the fire service that are decided by a jury, result in a verdict in favor of the women. My database (while not scientific nor robust enought to be authoritative at this point) has 61 sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuits, 13 of which went to a jury trial. In 11 of the 13, the women prevailed for a win rate of 85%. The vast majority of the cases that did not go to trial were settled.

After the verdict, Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr released a statement saying "We're anxious to move forward and put this situation behind us. The Austin Fire Department continues to be committed to a respectful, courteous workplace where all of our employees feel valued."

Here is another of the evidentiary videos:

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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