NEBRASKA FIREFIGHTER WINS DISCRIMINATION RETALIATION LAWSUIT
Colleen M. Arnett
Livorno and Arnett Co., LPA
1335 Dublin Road, Suite 108-B
Columbus, Ohio 43215
State and federal discrimination laws not only prohibit discrimination, but they also make it illegal to retaliate against an employee who has opposed discrimination. Thus, a firefighter who reports harassment or discrimination against another firefighter cannot be punished for reporting the conduct or supporting the victim of that discrimination or harassment. The City of Lincoln, Nebraska, has found out the hard way that retaliation is just as illegal as discrimination.
Three firefighters filed discrimination/retaliation lawsuits against the City of Lincoln. One of those firefighters – Captain Troy Hurd – filed suit in 2016 against the City and several high ranking fire and city officials, claiming he was subjected to disciplinary charges by ranking officers after he complained about instructors harassing recruits on the basis of their gender and national origin. Hurd also claimed that he was passed over for promotion on account of his complaints. One of the allegations he reported was an instructor telling a female recruit of Kurdish descent to “[g]o sit the f*** down!”and asking her “Do you need a f***ing interpreter?”
Hurd has just been awarded approximately $1.2 million by a federal court jury. The federal jury agreed with Hurd that he was the victim of retaliation, and awarded lost wages in the amount of $44,624.89, past medical expenses in the amount of $16,465.20, future medical expenses in the amount of $19,753.22, past emotional distress in the amount of $166,500.00, and for future emotional distress, $930,472.12. His attorneys will presumably be filing for attorneys fees and interest on the judgment as well.
Certainly there will be motions and appeals filed by the City to either have the award thrown out or substantially reduced, but as of now, the City is facing a $1.2M judgment.
The other two suits, filed by Captain Brian Giles and Firefighter Amber Benson, are pending. Giles filed suit in 2017 alleging he was retaliated against after reporting sexual harassment of female subordinates. Benson filed suit in 2018 alleging she was sexually harassed.