An employee of the Nixa Fire Protection District filed a lawsuit alleging acts of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
The federal lawsuit filed Feb. 6, seeks unspecified financial damages, and asks for a jury trial. The suit alleges that the employee suffered career damages, including a detrimental job record and diminished career potential.
The lawsuit lists 46 different allegations of discrimination or harassment by employees of the Nixa Fire Protection District against the plaintiff. The case names the Nixa Fire Protection District and its board of directors as defendants. It also names Fire Chief Lloyd Walles along with Assistant Fire Chief Adam Neff, Captain Garrick Zoeller and firefighter Will McGehee.
The plaintiff is the first female firefighter the Nixa Fire Protection District has ever hired, Dana Osborne. She remains employed with the Nixa Fire Protection District. According to federal court documents, the fire protection district has 90 days to respond to the civil lawsuit.
Some of the behavior described in the lawsuit alleges that Nixa firefighters would walk around a fire station in their boxer shorts, that male firefighters would hide parts of their female counterpart’s uniform, that the fire protection district failed to provide Osborne with adequate gear and equipment, and that Osborne was “ostracized by other firefighters and officers.”
The sexual harassment allegations include an instance where a fire captain sent a group text message to members of the fire department that included a picture of Osborne’s buttocks. The lawsuit also alleges that a captain looked at pornographic images and watched pornographic videos at the fire station, shared pictures of a woman’s nude buttocks around the fire station, sent a photograph of a penis to Osborne, whistled at Osborne, “like a dog, to get her attention,” spread rumors about Osborne’s private life, made “numerous sexual comments” to Osborne, and made multiple comments about his own genitalia directed at other firefighters.
Another fire captain, who is not one of the defendants, is alleged to have made an “unwelcome comment” about Osborne’s buttocks.
The lawsuit also alleges that Osborne was denied training by her superiors on multiple occasions, which hindered any opportunities she would have for advancement within the organization.
The employee is represented by attorney Kristi Kingston of Employee and Labor Law Group of Kansas City.
Osborne is suing for lost wages she would have received but for the alleged discrimination, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, a court-ordered permanent injunction ordering the Nixa Fire Protection District to halt any discriminatory practices, and a permanent injunction requiring the Nixa Fire Protection District to adopt employment practices and policies that conform to requirements of anti-discrimination laws.
Osborne broke the gender barrier in the Nixa Fire Protection District by becoming its first paid, full-time female firefighter in 2017.
After graduating from Southeast Missouri State University Law Enforcement Academy in 2003, but eventually decided to move from law enforcement into the fire service. After earning her EMT certifications and volunteering at the Fruitland Area Fire Protection District in Jackson, Missouri, Osborne joined the Nixa Fire Protection District in August 2017. The lawsuit identifies a pattern of allegations that began in November 2017 and run to the present day.