Civil Service Board says Transgender firefighter’s discrimination claims valid

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Knoxville Police Department’s internal investigation branch and Civil Service Board officials denounced two high-ranking Knoxville Fire Department (KFD) employees and substantiated claims made by KFD Captain Jamie Faucon that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender identity/expression. Faucon, who is transgendered, previously filed a grievance asserting that Assistant Fire Chief Mark Foulkes and Master Firefighter Mike Brown altered and reduced the scope of her duties and moved her office to a location making it difficult to fulfill her responsibilities, as part of a general climate of discrimination. Faucon also alleged that Foulkes and Brown made derogatory statements indicating their displeasure with having a transgender firefighter serve on KPD.

“I filed the grievance based on harassment, discrimination, loss of on-call pay, and removal of my authorized vehicle,” states Faucon.

Faucon, who continues as quality control officer for the organization, received word in early June that the grievance investigation findings were in her favor. Numerous witnesses were questioned in the investigation including not only KFD employees, but employees from other City/County governmental departments as well. Some cited “fear of retribution” if they cooperated with the inquiry, despite the presence of whistleblower protections.

The City also has anti-retaliation rules to cover those who make “good faith” complaints of job discrimination in order to “ensure that no excessive burdens be placed on a complainant which might discourage filing of complaints.” Faucon feels that Foulkes and Brown attempted to retaliate against her by smearing her performance in her last job performance evaluation. With prompting from the Civil Service Board, that evaluation was pulled and rewritten to reflect a more accurate description of Faucon’s recent work history.

Witnesses denied Foulkes and Brown’s assertions regarding requests from the Office of Special Events that Faucon not be assigned to extra duty and that they specifically asked for other KFD employees for those assignments. Among those questioned was Mickey Mallonee, Director of the Office of Special Events for the City of Knoxville , and Karen Massey, Knoxville Convention Center .

According to a report by WATE TV, Brown accuses the investigators of relying on dubious witnesses and maintains that he has assigned Faucon to more special events than any other employee.

The report concludes that witness statements regarding Faucon’s claims of discrimination appear to be true and that discrimination did indeed occur. While the Civil Service Board has no power to punish Foulkes and Brown, they did recommend that Brown receive diversity training within the next 90 days. Foulkes previously had similar training.