Nebraska Firefighter Seeks Injunction To Protect Her From Fire Captain

A Nebraska firefighter who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2018, has asked the court to take action to protect her from a fire captain who she claims “abandoned her and her crew in a burning warehouse with nearly zero visibility” on April 26.

Amanda Benson filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction last week as part of her lawsuit against the City of Lincoln and eight officers. She is asking Senior Judge Richard G. Kopf to do three things:

  1. order the City of Lincoln to immediately initiate disciplinary proceedings against [Captain Shawn] Mahler;
  2. enjoin Mahler from assignment/dispatch to any fire scene during the pendency of disciplinary proceedings; and
  3. appoint an independent, third-party investigator to investigate Plaintiff’s complaint about Mahler’s actions at the recent warehouse fire.

Captain Mahler is already a named defendant in Benson’s lawsuit. According to the motion:

  • Plaintiff [Benson] initiated the underlying litigation in this case alleging sex discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against the City of Lincoln and the individual defendants.
  • Defendant Captain Shawn Mahler has a history of refusing to communicate with Plaintiff in retaliation for complaints she has made about his unlawful conduct.
  • Despite multiple complaints from Plaintiff over the past several years, the City of Lincoln and LFR administration has refused to discipline and restrain Mahler from unlawful conduct.
  • Mahler and Plaintiff were recently dispatched to the same fire scene, where Incident Command ordered them to work together.
  • Although Mahler was the Group Supervisor, he refused to speak with Plaintiff and abandoned her and her crew in a burning warehouse with nearly zero visibility.
  • Plaintiff had filed a new internal complaint about Mahler four days before he left her in the warehouse fire.
  • Plaintiff is engaged in a dangerous profession where teamwork is absolutely critical.
  • Plaintiff, and those who happen to work on her team, face obvious irreparable harm if Mahler is allowed to continue retaliating against her while this litigation proceeds.

The brief supporting Benson’s motion goes on to say that Benson reported the matter immediately after the fire, prompting the fire department to initiate an investigation. The brief criticized the investigation as being “incomplete,” and for concluding that “Mahler’s conduct at the warehouse fire was being excused because he claims to have been confused about his assignment from the Incident Commander.”

Here is a copy of the motion, along with the supporting brief.

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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