Colorado Firefighter Alleges Sexual Assaults and Harassment

A Colorado firefighter has filed suit alleging she was sexually harassed throughout much of her 10-year membership in the East Grand Fire Protection District #4, and sexually assaulted leading to her constructive termination.  Lisa MacKendrick filed suit in US District Court for the District of Colorado against the district and its fire chief.

MacKendrick claims EGFPD#4 condoned drinking and sexually explicit “debauchery” that culminated in sexual assaults in the firehouse. She further claims the department failed to provide sexual harassment training to personnel.

As explained in the introductory narrative of the complaint:

  • Repeated sex assaults on the District’s firefighter Lisa MacKendrick were unsurprising and predictable, given (1) the District’s notorious culture of fraternity-style partying among its male residents, (2) the “unisex” layout of the residence, and (3) an absence of any sex harassment training.
  • The residents’ excessive drinking was well known to Chief Holzwarth and other higherups.
  • The District condoned the residents’ partying and debauchery by refusing to regulate off-duty conduct at the residence – alcohol consumption was prohibited for only on-duty firefighters.
  • The almost-exclusively male residents took full advantage of the lax rules, appearing at the residence severely intoxicated and with intoxicated female guests.
  • While the excessive drinking greatly increased the chances of sex assaults, the residence’s layout enabled it: the District’s sleeping quarters consisted of one two-bed bedroom and a common area, depriving Ms. MacKendrick of privacy and safety and leaving her at the mercy of drunk residents.
  • The District maintained this residence configuration throughout Ms. MacKendrick’s nearly ten-year tenure.
  • Predictably, Ms. MacKendrick was repeatedly sexually assaulted throughout the years – first by the District’s volunteer coordinator Jed Henry and years later by two resident volunteers.
  • Although the District admits the sex assaults by two of its resident firefighters – Adam Kaufman and Marco Caceras – the District feigns surprise at their occurrence and claims to have “cleaned house” following an investigation into Ms. MacKendrick’s complaints.
  • In reality, the District’s response was window dressing to appease Ms. MacKendrick: by the time of the investigation, Kaufman had left his position, but the Chief had attempted to guilt Ms. MacKendrick into permitting Caceras to stay.
  • Although Caceras was eventually fired, the District persists in maintaining its unsafe “unisex” living quarters, despite the investigator’s recommendations to reconfigure the residence.
  • In this action, Ms. MacKendrick alleges a gender-based hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and a Constitutional violation.

MacKendrick now suffers from panic attacks and PTSD. Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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