Fired Lincoln firefighter is latest to sue city alleging retaliation for reporting sex harassment

My cmnt: Lincoln has had nothing but a string of democrat, ultra-Lib mayors for the entire 21st century.

My cmnt: Democrat Leirion Baird is entirely responsible for the $10 million dollars in destruction to Lincoln businesses and injuries to both rioters and police during the “summer of love”, Covid super-spreader, riots by Biden voters protesting George Floyd killing himself with a massive fentanyl drug overdose and resisting arrest.

My cmnt: So democrat mayors oversaw some of the worst sexual harassment to women in both the police dept and among firefighters. Typical democrat leadership.

A former Lincoln firefighter has filed suit against the city, the latest to allege she was treated differently in the workplace on the basis of her sex and — in her case — sex stereotypes. 

Jessie Lundvall, a lesbian, believes it was why she was terminated last June, in addition to retaliation for her participation as a witness in an internal investigation involving Equal Employment Opportunity issues within the city. 

“Several long-term female city employees have been accused of lying and/or falsifying reports after engaging in protected activity, including (Amanda) Benson, Sarah Williams, Angela Sands, Female Police Officer A and Female Officer B,” her attorney, Kelly Brandon wrote in the complaint filed in Lancaster County District Court on Tuesday. “Jessie makes number six.” 

Brandon said since Lundvall started at Lincoln Fire and Rescue as a recruit in 2014, she faced questions and requirements that male employees didn’t.

In 2018, when Lundvall expressed interest in conducting hazardous material training for recruits, Chief of Training Tim Linke told her he had to first observe her performance as an instructor, which wasn’t required of males. He also expressed concerns about how much family and sick leave she would have to take, Brandon said. 

Lundvall and her wife have four children. 

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Brandon said Lundvall told Linke her children wouldn’t take time away from work, but Linke still turned down her request. 

In June 2019, she took a position as a firefighter training officer. A year and a half later, when she told Linke she needed to have surgery for a shoulder injury, he told her he didn’t think she had enough sick time to cover the length of her recovery, Brandon said. 

Within days, he asked her to get a “fit for duty” test and have a physician complete a form saying she was released to full duty. 

Brandon said the same hadn’t been required of male employees, and Lundvall later was told by HR she didn’t need to do anything until the surgery. 

Brandon said Lundvall later learned that Linke had been “secretly surveilling her,” which she learned from an employee from another division who heard she was being investigated for falsifying her time cards and likely would be terminated. 

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Lundvall filed a complaint with an Lincoln Fire and Rescue administrative officer and reported the leak about confidential personnel information.

At a pre-disciplinary hearing, she was told she was filling out her time cards incorrectly and improperly working remotely, which she initially was encouraged to do due to the pandemic.

Brandon said Fire Chief Dave Engler provided Lundvall a spreadsheet showing they’d been surveilling her for several weeks. 

At a later meeting, she was told she had improperly claimed an hour of overtime for an hour of work at home responding to an email from Engler because she didn’t have prior approval. 

She was suspended, then terminated June 8. 

Brandon said Engler told the union president that the city’s legal department forced his hand regarding Lundvall’s termination. 

“Because Jessie was a witness in the Benson case, and Jessie advised the city she planned to file a charge of discrimination or litigation against the city, she believes these were all factors in her termination,” the attorney said in the lawsuit. 

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The Lincoln City Attorney’s Office hasn’t yet filed a response, but said the city supports an individual’s right to seek redress through the court process.

“While we certainly have a different view regarding what happened, we also owe an obligation to our employees to keep their complaints and personal information confidential. Thus, we will not be discussing any details about the specific allegations, and we must rely on the legal process,” City Attorney Yohance Christie said.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of cases brought against the city by firefighters and police.

* In 2018, Benson, who was a fire department captain until her firing late last year, filed a case alleging the city failed to take steps to deal with the workplace harassment she faced. Her case is still pending. 

* In 2019, a federal jury awarded Troy Hurd, then a captain at Lincoln Fire and Rescue, $1.1 million for retaliation after he reported sex harassment he saw toward a female firefighter. The judgment later was reduced by a judge, and the city agreed to pay Hurd $600,000 to avoid a second trial.

* In 2020, the city agreed to pay Brian Giles, also a captain at Lincoln Fire and Rescue, $280,000 to settle his lawsuit for the same.

* In December, the city agreed to a pay Williams, a former Lincoln police officer who now works in Omaha, $65,000 to settle her lawsuit. At a City Council meeting she tearfully told them that female officers who have made formal complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination now are facing internal affairs investigations, suspensions and firings.

* In January, Officer Erin Spilker, then the public face of the Lincoln Police Department, filed a lawsuit alleging the same. 

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