Over the past few months, movements such as Me Too and Time’s Up have led to a growing awareness of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the work place. Women from all walks of life have come forward to share their stories and draw attention to the inequality women in the workplace face on a daily basis. In this current climate women who were wary about coming forward have found their voice and former Colorado firefighter Jennifer Taylor is one of those women. Taylor’s story draws attention to the ways some Colorado employers fail to protect their vulnerable employees from harassment and abuse.
In 2007, Jennifer Taylor was hired by the Colorado River Fire Rescue department, becoming one of the department’s 100 employees. Taylor was one of only two women who worked for the fire department at the time the discrimination initially occurred, and the first overt act of harassment took place when Taylor attended a training session. She claims that after returning from departmental training, she found her computer background screen changed to a pornographic image. Taylor complained formally to Chief Rob Jones, and the department found that three
employees were responsible for the incident.
The Fire Department’s Response
An internal investigation found that three employees, Jeff Clymer, Ben Park, and Wyatt May, were responsible for placing the sexually explicit image on Jennifer Taylor’s computer background screen. When confronted, the three men admitted that they were responsible for the act, but only Jeff Clymer was punished. His punishment consisted of being forced to return home for 12 hours with no additional suspensions, demotions, or extra training required. After the minimal punishment of only one of those who admitted responsibility, the harassment and abuse quickly escalated.
Jennifer Taylor states she was increasingly victimized after filing a formal complaint following the initial harassment. The act of changing her computer background screen continued and each time she complained, Taylor was told to ignore it or “get over it.” Taylor was told that she did not deserve to be a firefighter, was not permitted to take part in certain training exercises due to her gender, and was passed over for a promotion. When she complained, Taylor was repeatedly told that the department could not take an action until she filed an EEOC complaint. The situation reached its peak in April 2017 when one of the firefighters responsible for the initial act of harassment punched Taylor during training. Even though the fire department was aware of the assault, the only punishment the assailant received was a 48-hour suspension.
After being failed by her department and superior officers, Jennifer Taylor felt she had no choice other than to pursue legal action, suing the department for discrimination and failing to protect her from harassment. Sadly, Taylor’s story is not unique as many employees throughout the United States find themselves in similar situations. If you or someone close to you is the victim of workplace discrimination and retaliation, contact a qualified employment attorney. Skilled lawyers like the team at HKM Employment Attorneys can fight on your behalf to ensure you or your loved ones receive the justice you deserve. Contact us today to schedule an appointment in our Denver, Colorado office so that we can begin discussing your case.