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EEOC: Houston Fire Department subjected female firefighter to hostile work environment

EEOC District Director R.J. Ruff Jr. notified the Houston Fire Department that it has determined that HFD subjected Jane Draycott, a female firefighter to a hostile work environment by failing to properly address discrimination and retaliation complaints that she had previously filed.

According to a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by Draycott in April 2010, Draycott had previously filed complaints in 2000 and 2007 for being sexually harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment.  She alleges that “no action was taken to address the problem or to protect her from continued harassment.”

According to the complaint, “On two separate occasions, the pictures of Draycott’s children, including her deceased daughter, were removed from her locker, torn up, and placed in the trash.”

“Draycott made frequent verbal complaints to the Captains about the conditions in the female dorm and bathroom and the ongoing sexual harassment and hostile work environment.  The only action taken was to restate to the firefighters that the female dorm and bathroom were off limits to the male firefighters.” 

On July 7, 2009, three months after Draycott and Paula Keyes, another female firefighter, had filed harassment complaints, the walls of their dorm were vandalized with the words “niggar lover” and “die bitch.” Draycott also discovered that her locker had been broken into and “someone had written in black marker on the pictures taped inside on the locker door.  On the photo of Draycott and her deceased daughter someone had written the word ‘die’ on Draycott’s face and the word ‘dead’ over her daughter’s face.” 

On July 16, 2009, Draycott filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division.

Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie resignation

Phil Boriskie

When Draycott returned to work at Station 54 on January 13, 2010, a “roll call” was held in the presence of Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie, some of his command staff, HFD’s department psychologist, and other station staff and firefighters.  Captain Brian Williamson started the “roll call” meeting by reading from a document, telling Draycott that “he did not want her at the station,” and accusing Draycott “of twice trying to kill herself at the station, a statement that was not true and defamatory.”  According to the complaint, the Captain also stated that he did not trust Draycott and “accused draycott of not being mentally stable enough to back the guys up on a line.”

Draycott claims that even though she was crying during most of the Captain’s comments and was extremely upset by the his accusations, “no one attempted to stop the vicious comments.” 

According to the Houston Chronicle, Houston “Mayor Annise Parker called the episode a display of ‘poor judgment’ on the part of Fire Chief Phil Boriskie and members of the command staff who were present.”

Boriskie resigned as Fire Chief in January 2010.

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EEOC: Houston Fire Department subjected female firefighter to hostile work environment
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