DENVER (CBS4) – Two women are suing the Denver Fire Department, accusing the agency of systemic discrimination based on sex and race. Charmaine Cassie and Da Lesha Allen filed a suit accusing DFD supervisors of using racially charged comments and being tougher on Black women on the force.
However, in internal documents obtained by CBS4, Allen was cited nearly 20 different times during her time with the department for different productivity and safety concerns.
In a multi-page termination notice, Denver Fire said Allen was showing an inability to accurately and productively complete many of the basic duties required of firefighters. The department accused her work of being dangerous to the peers she served with.
While Allen had an extensive write up, Charmaine Cassie had no such file available.
“Over time they have been the subjects of hyper scrutiny by their White male supervisors,” said David Lane, the attorney representing the duo.
Lane accused DFD of being a “White boys network.” While the profession as a whole is predominantly staffed by men, Lane accused DFD of having a culture which caters to White men.
“The statistical evidence of the racial and sex makeup of the Denver fire department shows they have a culture, a pattern, a practice of discriminating against women. In particular, women of color,” Lane told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
At the end of 2019, CBS4 reporter Michael Abeyta shadowed Cassie as she completed her training in the academy. Thomas then interviewed her at her graduation in January of 2020. At the time, Cassie was proud to be entering the force and applauded her peers for treating her as an equal.
“Although my class was predominantly male, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. They were like your brothers,” Cassie said in January.
Lane said, while the peers may have treated her fairly, he was told that Cassie’s supervisors and trainers were the ones who were more likely to be discriminatory toward her. He said she, and Allen, experienced discrimination during their training.
Allen’s termination notice highlights that she was the center of complaints from several peers and superiors for having a poor attitude and showing disrespect. The document claims Allen confessed to showing disrespect at times. Denver Fire supervisors also accused Allen of not being able to safely operate chainsaws and axes.
All recruits are required to complete a tiring task of climbing every floor of a high-rise in downtown Denver. In the termination letter DFD superiors say Allen failed to complete the task the first time. She was unable to participate in the second attempt due to injury. And, she refused to complete the task when the final opportunity was presented.
Cassie successfully completed the climb.
The duo accused the department of nitpicking Allen and Cassie for things white men were not targeted for. The lawsuit also accused the agency of holding an injury against the clients.
“One of my clients was advised to just keep her head down, work hard like a slave, and you will be fine,” Lane said. “It’s not only crazy to hear comments like that in 2020. It is illegal. They were told it was a joke, don’t be so sensitive.”
Lane said his clients felt the best course of action was to file a lawsuit against the city.
“They don’t want other people to go through what they went through. So, change of culture is their foremost goal,” Lane said.
CBS4 reached out to the city of Denver for a response, but has not received one.