HOUSTON (CN) – A Houston firefighter says firemen retaliated against her for filing a sexual harassment complaint by breaking into her locker and writing “niggar lover” and “die bitch” on the wall next to her children’s photos.
In her complaint in Harris County Court, Ena Draycott says her problems began in 2000 when she told a junior captain that a co-worker had harassed her by trying to climb into bed with her.
“Draycott did not file a formal complaint about him at that time because he was only on Draycott’s shift temporarily and, more importantly, Draycott did not want to be labeled as a troublemaker by her supervisor and other firefighters,” according to the complaint.
But her district chief caught wind of her request not to work with the man anymore and made her file a formal complaint, she says. Firefighters in her station soon learned she had filed a complaint against a “fellow firefighter,” Draycott says.
“As a result of this disclosure Draycott was isolated and treated differently by her co-workers,” she says. “No action was taken against the firefighter that had harassed her.”
Draycott’s peers considered her a “problem co-worker” because of her complaint, and “she routinely spent her shift away from the other firefighters,” she says.
When she returned from maternity leave, her superiors made her take a recertification test that male firefighters did not have to take, Draycott says.
They also skipped her when she was due to work overtime though she had told them that she wanted the hours, Draycott says.
The retaliation reached a fevered pitch when Draycott was assigned as the only woman in Station 54, she says.
Male firefighters would enter the station’s women’s dorm and leave fingernail and toenail clippings on her bed, Draycott says. They urinated in the sink of the women’s bathroom, and rigged firecrackers to go off when she opened a stall door in the women’s bathroom.
“Draycott immediately reported the incident to the captain on duty who told her he knew who was responsible, but he refused to tell her who it was or take any action against the person responsible,” according to the complaint.
On July 7, 2009 Draycott says, she arrived at the station to find someone had scrawled “niggar lover” and “die bitch” in black marker next to her children’s photos, above her desk at the station. A peek inside her locker revealed the vandals had written “die” on her picture and “dead” on a photo of her deceased daughter.
“After the incidents of July 7, 2009 Draycott was placed on leave,” the complaint states. “Draycott was told she was being placed on leave to allow an investigation to take place and appropriate actions to be instituted before she returned to work.”
Draycott says she filed a complaint with the EEOC and Texas Workforce Commission on July 16, 2009.
After the media picked up the story, Fire Department officials tired to discredit her by falsely claiming she was having an affair, that she suffers from “various medical conditions,” and that “Draycott wrote the racist and sexist graffiti herself,” according to the complaint.
Draycott says that when she returned to work, her captain berated her in front of a large group of co-workers, and reduced her to tears. The captain said she was a “disruption.” Other firefighters chimed in, saying they did not want to work with Draycott and that she made them uncomfortable.
“Draycott has been prevented from going back to work with the fire department,” the complaint states.
She seeks punitive damages from the City of Houston for whistleblower retaliation, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.
Draycott is represented by Joseph Ahmad of Houston.