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Female Wichita firefighter files EEOC complaint against the city for retaliation

wichita_fire_truck.jpg
Nadya Faulx
/
KMUW/File photo

She's been with the department for 11 years.

A female Wichita firefighter has filed a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the city for retaliation.

The firefighter, Tatyana Fuller, has worked with the department for 11 years.

She filed the claim after she reported to supervisors that the female locker room was being broken into repeatedly at her station. She was moved to another station, and then later put on paid leave.

“The City's actions towards me have been discriminatory, humiliating, and retaliatory,” Fuller said in the claim. “The City's actions have further cost me financially. It has been difficult emotionally to be treated as a second-class citizen.”

The city of Wichita declined to comment.

The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on gender and other factors. It and the Department of Justice will investigate the claims, which can take nine to 10 months, according to Fuller’s attorney, Sean McGivern. The DOJ is involved when a claim is filed against a public agency.

“This is a bad situation,” McGivern said. “We need accountability, and we certainly need accountability from agencies like the Wichita Fire Department.”

McGivern is also involved in another lawsuit with the city where a Black fire captain claims he was denied a promotion after his review was falsified.

“This place is in need of a hard reset,” McGivern said of the city.

According to the EEOC filing, other firefighters began leaving notes with “XOXO” in Fuller’s belongings in the female locker room starting in the fall of 2021. Male firefighters were also using the bathroom in the locker room and leaving feces and urine behind.

The notes stopped, but firefighters continued to use the bathroom and not clean up after themselves even after she questioned other firefighters about the behavior.

Fuller said she reported the behavior to her captain, who advised her to put a lock on her locker room.

“I did not want to put a lock on the female locker room initially because I feared it would draw even more attention and potentially cause animosity towards me,” the claim reads.

After working a shift at another station where she saw the female locker room had a lock on the door, she used her own funds to buy and install a lock. Soon after, other firefighters tried breaking into the locker room – including through the ceiling, the claim said.

The lock was eventually damaged from someone crawling through the ceiling and jamming it from the inside, according to the claim.

After reporting the behavior to her supervisors, she was moved to another station. No action was taken against the other firefighters, the claim said.

An acting captain reported to Chief Tammy Snow that the transfer was unlawful – as a complaint had been filed with the city.

Fuller was then put on paid administrative leave for a month during an investigation that has yet to be completed, the claim said. She also couldn’t work the overtime hours she used to supplement her income.

“To my knowledge, no one else was ever put on leave or suspended over the gender discrimination and damage to the lock I placed on the women’s locker room,” according to the claim.

Fuller continued to have problems with people using her locker room once she returned to work this summer, and her request for a keypad lock was denied, according to the claim.

Several other stations with female locker rooms still have their locks. Fuller has also yet to receive any compensation or overtime she would have received during her administrative leave.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.