Report: HFD discriminated towards female firefighter

January 17, 2011 5:16:29 PM PST
Two years ago firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes complained about the way they were being treated and now we are learning the details about exactly what happened.

[ READ THE FULL EEOC REPORT ]

The report says firefighter Jane Draycott was "subjected to a hostile work environment" based on her gender. That's the conclusion of a scathing report looking into accusations of harassment in the Houston Fire Department. We have received a copy of the report and some of the findings are truly disturbing.

A stinging report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying that members of HFD did indeed discriminate against some of its female firefighters and that managers did nothing to stop it.

It was in 2009 that firefighters Draycott and Keyes first complained that someone vandalized their lockers at Fire Station 54, writing racially charged phrases across lockers and personal belongings, and now in a harsh report, the EEOC agrees that HFD has problems.

The commission says, "charging Party (Draycott) was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her gender, (Draycott's) dormitory was indeed vandalized. Moreover, the evidence shows that (Draycott's) male coworkers were harassing her throughout her tenure at Station 54."

An internal OIG investigation couldn't find the perpetrators, a fact also noted by EEOC investigators.

Our legal analyst says there's only one way to look at the report.

"This is an embarassment to the city of Houston. The fact that the fire department has been branded by the EEOC as discriminatory is an embarassment and should not continue," said Joel Androphy.

But the firefighter's union is not backing down, issuing their own statement which read in part:

    "Our understanding is that few, if any, of the 39 firefighters who were polygraphed, gave sworn statements or handwriting samples, or cooperated with the city's investigations were contacted by the EEOC. We do not view this report as the defining assessment of what happened at Station 54.
    More troubling is the city's continuing refusal to release findings of its administrative investigation of Station 54. Our firefighters cooperated with the city investigations and with one by a Texas law firm retained by the city. As the investigation proceeded, Houston Mayor Annise Parker rightly said Houston firefighters are 'unjustly under a cloud.'
    We again urge Mayor Parker to order the city attorney to release the findings of the civil investigation of Station 54. The firefighters exonerated in the investigation deserve to be recognized as such."

It's a response that doesn't surprise our legal analyst.

"People that discriminate against other people, are the last people in the world to admit it and to confess and try to fix the problem. Most of the time they need to be told what to do," said Androphy.

Parker has been making changes, naming a new fire chief last year. Today, City Attorney Dave Feldman made it clear the city wants this episode over, saying, "We have reviewed the EEOC determination and without commenting on the merits, we believe that it is in the best interests of all parties for the city to seek resolution of this matter, both with Ms. Draycott and the EEOC. We are endeavoring to do that at this time."

The report further states that Houston Fire Department management at the time knew of the complaints, but did not try to solve them.

Draycott's attorney, Joe Ahmed, did not want to comment today. Draycott is still on a leave of absence from the fire department.


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