Missouri Firefighter Alleges Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

A Missouri firefighter has filed suit against her department, two chiefs, a captain and a firefighter-colleague alleging she has been sexual harassed and retaliated against.

Dana Osborne filed suit last week in US District Court for the Western District of Missouri citing a litany of boorish behaviors perpetrated by her captain and others within the Nixa Fire Protection District. According to Osborne, after she complained she was ostracized, threatened with a transfer, denied training opportunities, and placed under increased scrutiny as the department was looking for an opportunity to discipline her… but the boorish behavior continued.

Named in the suit is the Nixa Fire Protection District, the district’s board of directors, Fire Chief Lloyd Walles, Assistant Chief Adam Neff, Captain Garrick Zoeller, and FF Will McGehee.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • On August 8, 2018, Captain Zoeller showed pictures of female’s bare backsides around the station.
  • On August 17, 2018, Captain Zoeller sent Plaintiff a picture of an erect penis with an apple watch on it, with the caption “selling my apple watch…lemme know if your (sic) interested.”
  • On September 7, 2018 Firefighter Osborne received a sexually inappropriate group text from firefighter Kevin Grizzle including a meme of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky “Believe in something. Even if it means swallowing everything.” “Nike” “Just do it.”
  • On September 13, 2018, Captain Zoeller made a comment to Osborne, stating “This is the exact opposite of making my dick soft.” He also whistled at Osborne, like a dog, to get her attention.
  • On September 16, 2018, Captain Zoeller sent a group text to member of the fire department with a picture of Osbornes backside saying “Dana loves double under.”
  • On September 17, 2018, Osborne stated to Captain Zoeller to stop other firefighters from spreading rumors regarding her personal life. Spreading rumors is a policy violation; however, Captain Zoeller took no action to prevent the rumors.
  • At shift change, Captain Zoeller and another male employee had a sexually explicit conversation talking about, “plowing the shit out of her.”
  • On October 16, 2018, Lieutenant Leach discussed sexual encounters with his wife in Osborne’s presence, stating that he hit his wife in the face with his penis and that he went to the shower and ejaculated when she would not have sex with him.
  • On October 19, 2018, Osborne complained to Assistant Chief Neff about the discrimination and harassment she had been experiencing at the fire station.
  • On October 27, 2018, Captain Zoeller made numerous sexual comments to Plaintiff, including, “just because I like pussy doesn’t mean I want to work in a strip club.”
  • Captain Zoeller also made several comments to Plaintiff and others while watching pornographic images and videos at the fire station, including, “Its ok to suck on a wiener, but I think they’re doing something else.”
  • Captain Zoeller showed Plaintiff a meme on his phone that was a picture of a vagina with the anus labeled as clitoris.

There is much… much more in the complaint. Here is a copy:

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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