Discrimination lawsuit filed against Colorado River Fire Rescue

Female firefighter alleges gender bias, harassment

Alex Zorn

Colorado River Fire Rescue is under fire from one of its female firefighters over office exchanges in recent years that she says amounted to gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Firefighter/paramedic Jennifer Taylor filed a discrimination claim against the department in March of 2017.

In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a notice acknowledging Taylor’s right to sue, which she did in a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver last week.

In the Feb. 23 complaint, Taylor claims she was subjected to gender discrimination and sexual harassment during her time with the department. She has been an employee of CRFR, or its predecessors, since Jan. 1, 2007.

Taylor claims she was passed over for several promotions during her time with CRFR and was subjected to intentional discrimination because of her sex.

“The sexually explicit comments and conduct was severe, pervasive, detrimentally affected Taylor and would have detrimentally affected a reasonable person of the same sex in Taylor’s position,” the lawsuit states.

In one alleged incident, on April 7 of last year, while Taylor was training, she claims that one of the male firefighters she previously accused of harassment, came up to her and punched her.

The lawsuit states that CRFR’s internal investigation confirmed that the firefighter in question hit Taylor, but “only after Taylor filed a charge of discrimination with EEOC, (the male firefighter) was suspended 144 hours. He was allowed to return after only 48 hours.”

In an earlier incident in May 2016, Taylor says she left her computer for part of the day and returned to find that the background photo on her screen was changed, displaying an image of two men engaged in sexual acts. The suit alleges that three male employees admitted to being responsible, but that they received only minimal punishment.

“CRFR’s handling of the harassment and discrimination Taylor experienced has sent a message that it will tolerate male employees engaging in overt sexual harassment and even physical violence toward female employees without fear of termination or even significant discipline,” the lawsuit states.

Taylor filed three claims for relief against the department to federal court, including, 1. Sexual harassment and hostile work environment; 2. Sexual discrimination in terms, conditions and privileges of employment; and 3. Retaliation.

“CRFR’s intentional discrimination … entitles Taylor to an award of back pay, including pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, she would have been entitled to had she been promoted until the last day of trial,” the lawsuit concludes. “Taylor is entitled to punitive damages to punish CRFR for its misconduct and to warn others against doing the same.”

CRFR Chief Rob Jones responded to the complaint in a written statement sent to area news media.

“The District does not tolerate harassment, discrimination or retaliation against anyone on the basis of gender or any other class protected by law,” Jones said. “Because the District protects the privacy of its employees and does not publicly discuss confidential personnel matters, the District will not comment on the particular allegations raised in Jennifer Taylor’s complaint.”

Taylor is being represented in the case by Grand Junction attorney Nicholas Mayle.

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