LINCOLN, NE — The city has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a Lincoln Fire & Rescue captain’s federal lawsuit alleging he faced retaliation and was passed up for a promotion after reporting harassment of female firefighters.
Capt. Brian Giles was to get $279,671, and his attorney $220,329.
The city wasn’t admitting liability or wrongdoing in the matter, according to the agreement.
Giles’ was the second big-dollar settlement in nine months over alleged retaliation within the fire department for employees reporting discrimination.
In October, the city agreed to a $1.29 million settlement, which included $690,000 in attorney fees, with then-Capt. Troy Hurd over related allegations.
He is no longer with LFR.
In a lawsuit filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Giles alleged that after a female firefighter told him in 2012 about the different treatment she was receiving as a recruit, he went to a battalion chief, saying he felt she was being treated unfairly.
That same year, Hurd complained to several superiors about the same conduct and ended up facing retaliation for it, a federal jury later found.
Giles raised concerns again in 2014 after he witnessed discrimination against a second female firefighter and alleged he was passed up for a promotion to battalion chief over his reports and for supporting Hurd on his allegations.
In the complaint, Gretna attorney Kelly Brandon accused command staff of retaliation and fostering an illegal retaliatory hostile work environment by treating people who complain about discrimination differently than other employees. She also alleged the city had violated the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act.
Giles signed off on the settlement July 10, and the City Council since has reviewed it.
Last year, a jury awarded Hurd $1,177,815, the bulk of it for past and future emotional distress. But the judge later ruled that the jury wasn’t justified in awarding him $930,472 for future emotional distress. In the settlement, they agreed to a reduced amount of $519,158.
A third lawsuit against the city, filed by Lincoln firefighter Amanda Benson, still is pending.
On Monday, Brandon said Giles is proud of his service and will continue his career serving the citizens of Lincoln.
“Captain Giles did precisely what the City expected of him by reporting the sexual harassment and discrimination of firefighter Amanda Benson and the retaliation against Captain Troy Hurd,” she said.
But, after making the reports, he was denied a promotion to battalion chief despite being ranked first and outscoring the person promoted by 25 points on a test.
Brandon said the fire chiefs who made the decision were some of the same who made disciplinary decisions involving Hurd that led to the jury verdict. None of them were disciplined for their actions. Many remain employed by the city.
“Due to the terms of the settlement agreement, Captain Giles can never join the ranks of LFR administration, which is regrettable considering his 30 plus years of experience, leadership, knowledge and superior qualifications,” she said.
Brandon said the public should be outraged by how these “honorable firefighters were treated and demand accountability and change.”