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Former Houston firefighter Jane Draycott wins large settlement in lawsuit against City of Houston

A high-profile case that dates back to 2009 is back in the news with a lawsuit settlement that will cost the city $275,000.
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Law and Justice concept. Mallet of the judge, books, scales of justice.

HOUSTON — The City of Houston has agreed to settle a Justice Department lawsuit on behalf of former HFD firefighter Jane Draycott. 

She will receive $275,000 as part of the settlement in the suit that alleged sexism, racism and harassment.

“This was a long struggle but worth it for Jane because she obtained relief through the courts that will help other women going forward,” said attorney Joe Ahmad. “She stood on the side of truth and justice in this case.”

Draycott made headlines in 2009 when she and another female firefighter  said they were victims of sexism, racism and harassment while working at Fire Station 54.

Draycott said graffiti was scrawled on her station locker, including over photos of her daughter who had died in a DWI crash. 

After other firefighters accused her of planting the photos, she was forced to give a handwriting test.

In a 2009 lawsuit, Draycott also claimed she was the victim of repeated unwanted sexual advances at multiple stations where she worked. She said she was harassed by her superiors for reporting the incidents.

“The way the male firefighters treated these brave women was abhorrent. The city dragging its feet a decade on this was shameful," Ahmad said.

After returning to work, Draycott told KHOU 11 News the abuse continued when she was called into what she thought would be a "team-building meeting." Instead, the captain pulled out a letter and started reading it in front of everyone.

"It completely humiliated me. It blindsided me," Draycott said. "He said that he didn't trust me. He was afraid for his safety and the safety of his crew members. He was afraid for his life. He felt that I wasn't the victim."

Houston s Office of Inspector General looked into Draycott's allegations of harassment, but its findings were inconclusive. It never released a written report. 

In 2011, the EEOC determined the Houston Fire Department subjected Draycott to a hostile work environment based on her gender. 

Paula Keyes, the other firefighter involved in the lawsuit, settled with the City of Houston in April for an undisclosed amount.

As part of the settlements, the city agreed to create sexual harassment and retaliation training for ranking Houston Fire Department personnel and supervisors.

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