JFRD lieutenant files sex harassment lawsuit

Woman claims she was subjected to pornography, hostility at fire station

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A lieutenant with Jacksonville Fire-Rescue has sued the department and the city, claiming she was exposed to sexually inappropriate materials and behavior, and when she complained about it, she was targeted for retaliation and discipline.

The federal lawsuit, filed July 29 by Candice Buckner, claims she and another women assigned to Station 1 downtown were treated with hostility by male firefighters. 

In July 2013, Buckner filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Florida Commission on Human Rights complaining of a "volume of sexually explicit and pornographic materials, and inappropriate behaviors, in the fire station."

The lawsuit claims that since her complaints were brought to the attention of the city's Office of General Counsel, Martin Senterfitt, director of JFRD, and officers at Fire Station 1, "Buckner has been subjected to a hostile work environment, disparate, disciplinary treatment and retaliatory measure by those within JFRD."

One of a dozen specific allegations referenced in the suit claims that when Buckner objected to a male firefighter's sexual reference to Buckner's teenage daughter, he grabbed her arm, spun her around and repeated his comment.

Buckner claims the battalion chief, Neal White, witnessed the incident and made no attempt to stop the harassment, and has since repeatedly stated it was his intention to have Buckner removed from the fire station, "If it's the last thing I do."

Buckner is a paramedic who has worked for JFRD for 10 years and was promoted to lieutenant in 2011.

The lawsuit is asking the court to declare the department's actions unlawful, enjoin them from future violations and award Buckner compensatory damages and reasonable attorney's fees and other costs.

A fire department spokesman said an internal investigation of Buckner's claims found nothing that required any remedial action.

"We immediately launched an investigation through our internal compliance office," JFRD spokesman Tom Francis said. "Upon conclusion of that investigation it was determined (that) no further action was warranted -- a decision that did not align with the expectation of Lt. Buckner, who is now seeking a remedy in a different venue."

The city has filed a motion asking to have until Sept. 12 to respond to the lawsuit due to the number of allegations "requires a sufficient amount of time to adequately and thoughtfully craft a response."

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