Two Tulsa Chiefs Sue Claiming Gender Discrimination

Two chief officers in the Tulsa Fire Department have filed suit claiming they were passed over for promotion because of their gender, and retaliated against after they complained. Greta Hurt and Julie Lynn filed suit in US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Both plaintiffs are chief officers within the department, Hurt serving as Chief of Health and Safety and Lynn serving as a district. Prior to making her first complaint about gender discrimination in 2020, Chief Hurt was the Administrative Chief. According to KTUL Channel 8, she opted to retire effective August 1, 2022. As explained in the complaint:

  • During their careers as Tulsa firefighters, both Lynn and Hurt were subjected to numerous incidents of sexual harassment and the tolerance of such harassment by their superiors.
  • In 2020, Hurt and Lynn were the only female firefighters eligible to apply for the position of Deputy Chief of Field Operations.
  • In July, 2020 Hurt and Lynn were candidates for the position of Deputy Chief of Field Operations.
  • Lynn was subjected to pressure from her superiors and other firefighters to withdraw her name so that, with only three (3) candidates, an outside assessment would not be conducted.
  • Hurt was not selected. Brent Goins, a less qualified male candidate, was selected and became the Deputy Chief of Field Operations.
  • Subsequently, Hurt filed a complaint with the Defendant’s Human Resources Department alleging discrimination based on sex.
  • She was at that time the Administrative Chief and the first female firefighter to hold that position.
  • In March 2021, immediately after that complaint was denied, Hurt was transferred from her position as Administrative Chief to Chief of Health and Safety, perceived to be a position of less significance within TFD.
  • Additionally, Hurt was physically relocated to the most remote office away from the offices of the Fire Chief and executive staff.
  • Further, duties of the new position were reduced and Hurt was excluded from some of the normal involvement that the position of Chief of Health and Safety would logically, and did historically, entail.
  • In August 2021 two (2) positions for Assistant Chief (FD-06) were open. Hurt and Lynn were the only female firefighters qualified to apply and they both applied for each position. Two (2) male candidates applied for each position.
  • No outside assessments were conducted. There were four (4) applicants for each position, two (2) male candidates and two (2) female candidates.
  • On or about August 26, 2021 the two (2) male candidates, who were less qualified than the two (2) female candidates, were selected for the FD-06 positions.
  • On or about August 29, 2021 Hurt sent a complaint to the City of Tulsa Department of Human Resources and the Mayor of Tulsa describing the discrimination based on sex which had occurred in the selection process for the two (2) FD-06 positions.
  • Several days later, Lynn sent a similar complaint.
  • Hurt was effectively shunned by TFD administrators in retaliation for her complaint.
  • Actions of the Defendant, described herein, were done with the intention of discriminating against the Plaintiffs on the basis of their sex.
  • As a result of the retaliation against Hurt, she has experienced high levels of dread, stress, anxiety, humiliation and other detrimental conditions.
  • The aforementioned and the retaliatory actions by Defendant constitute an effective termination and Hurt, therefore, submitted her resignation.
  • As a result of the retaliation against Lynn, she has experienced detrimental conditions.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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