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Former Denver Fire Captain Files Suit, Claims Gender Discrimination

DENVER (CBS4) - A former Denver Fire Department captain has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was the target of gender discrimination which ultimately led to her 2015 firing.

Colley Fisher, who was with the department for 23 years, said in her 23-page lawsuit, "For decades, DFD has made its ranks unwelcome to women."

Colley Fisher
Colley Fisher (credit: Colley Fisher)

The document obtained by CBS4 recounts a litany of incidents in which Fisher says she was treated unfairly and differently than male colleagues.

"DFD is, and always has been, an extremely male-oriented employer with an extremely male dominated culture," according to the lawsuit.

City of Denver officials did not immediately provide comment on the new lawsuit.

"Even as women have made significant strides in other settings, DFD has remained steadfast in its efforts to limit the ability of women to succeed in its training program and be accepted as firefighters. Even women who succeed within the department are held to a higher standard than their male counterparts and are prevented from obtaining promotions and other advancement opportunities for which they are qualified," reads a passage from Fisher's legal action.

She says at the time of her termination in 2015 she was the second-highest ranking woman in the department. But Fisher contends women were held to a higher standard than their male counterparts and disciplined more harshly for similar infractions.

"For example," reads the lawsuit, "in the last few years alone, men in positions comparable to Captain Fisher's solicited prostitutes, engaged in criminal trespass, engaged in acts of violence with other DFD employees, assaulted a police officer, engaged in poaching, engaged in disorderly conduct, abandoned a fire crew at a fire, were convicted for driving under the influence involving accidents, committed assaults, committed a kidnapping, bullied a crew, displayed a firearm while off duty in an act of road rage, discharged a firearm for no reason while off duty, tested positive for drug and alcohol use while on duty, stole prescription drugs, and ignored a safety issue that lead to the death of a Denver firefighter. These offenses were significantly more serious than those allegedly committed by Captain Fisher. Nonetheless, the male employees were not terminated."

Acting City Attorney Shaun Sullivan released a statement to CBS4 saying, "We were just recently served with the complaint and will thoroughly evaluate the claims and decide how to proceed in handling the case. Out of respect for the process, we do not comment on pending litigation."

Camilla VonBurkhardt1
Camilla VonBurkhardt (credit: CBS)

The Fisher lawsuit follows a payment earlier this year to another former female firefighter who claimed she too was discriminated against because of her gender. The City of Denver paid former firefighter Camilla VonBurkhardt $75,000 to settle her claims after she said she experienced repeated sexual harassment on the job. In her resignation letter, VonBurkhardt said she was singled out, discriminated against, ridiculed, humiliated and subjected to numerous sexual comment toward her gender. She called sexual harassment at DFD "pervasive and severe" and "ingrained in DFD culture and tolerated and condoned at all levels."

The City of Denver and the fire department refused to discuss the settlement with VonBurkhardt but in a legal document, Fire Chief Eric Tade denied she was treated illegally.


LINK: Read The Lawsuit

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