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Female firefighter sues AFD for discrimination, retaliation

Friday, September 19, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Just as the city was learning that three female police officers had filed suit alleging discrimination, a woman firefighter has filed suit against the City of Austin claiming discriminatory treatment by the department.


Nona Allen is one of a handful of the Austin Fire Department’s female, African-American firefighters. In her lawsuit, she claims she was not provided facilities equal to the male firefighters at Station 15 and that when she complained, officials within the department retaliated against her.


The lawsuit, filed in state district court, describes a series of events in which Allen attempted to put a table and chair in the female locker room at the fire station. According to Allen, that furniture was repeatedly removed from the locker room. Allen’s suit claims she was told by her supervisor that the order to remove the furniture had come from farther up the chain of command, and when she attempted to bring her own desk and chair into the locker room as personal items, they were also prohibited.


“While the male firefighters were enjoying recliners, flat-screen televisions, video games, food and other kinds of entertainment in their locker room, Nona was left with a cement floor to sit on for seven months,” said attorney Derek Howard, who is representing Allen. “While she complained repeatedly about this disparate treatment, she was told the chief would not respond to her complaints and did nothing to correct these disparate behaviors.”    


The lawsuit also alleges that department officials took action against Allen in response to her requests for equal facilities. “I don’t know why they didn’t respond,” Howard said. “We have a lot of evidence to suggest that they failed to respond, that in fact they retaliated against Nona for making these complaints.”


The suit states the unequal treatment began in February of 2007 when Allen was assigned to Station 15 after graduating from the fire academy. Although the suit does not specify an amount, Allen is seeking back pay, legal fees, and damages for mental anguish.

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