Transgender fire fighter files harassment, discrimination grievance

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KNOXVILLE – A transgender Knoxville fire fighter has filed a grievance against top ranking Knoxville Fire Department officials, charging that they have harassed and discriminated her because of her transgender status.

Fire Captain Jamie Faucon, quality control officer for the Knoxville Fire Department, filed the grievance against Knoxville Fire Chief Carlos Perez and her supervisor, Assistant Fire Chief Mark Foulkes.

Faucon also says in her grievance that Foulkes used incorrect gender terms when referring to her in conversations. She’s asking to be returned to Knoxville Fire Station 10 with a take-home car and to be referred to correctly by others in the fire department.

Department spokesman Charlie Barker says the grievance was just filed and the department had no comment.

“I filed the grievance based on harassment, discrimination, loss of on-call pay, and removal of my authorized vehicle,” states Faucon. “The drive-home car was approved by the Mayor.”

The grievance procedure allows Foulks three days to respond before the process is turned over to Chief Perez. At that time, Perez will have an additional three days before referral to the Civil Service Commission.

Faucon claims her job conditions changed after Perez took the reins of the local fire service. Perez came to Knoxville in November 2004 with more than 25 years experience as a fire fighter with the Miami-Dade Fire Department. He served in that department until retirement. His most recent employment before coming to Knoxville was with the DeKalb County Fire-Rescue.

Faucon, a retired armed services veteran of Desert Storm and numerous other U.S. engagements, says there were no problems under former Fire Chief Ed Cureton.

When Perez took over, it was two months prior to Faucon’s previously scheduled sex-reassignment surgery to make the transition from man to woman. Her leave for the surgery had been scheduled with no problems.

Chief Perez has been the target of two different age discrimination complaints along with at least one civil rights violation claim in his tenue.

Precedent exists for Faucon’s complaint. A case involving a similar situation in the United States Sixth District Court of Appeals found in favor of the transgendered employee. Jamie Smith of Salem, Ohio, was successful in her appeal on the grounds of discrimination based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other legal bases.

The loss of the drive-home vehicle is a major sticking point for Faucon who points out that Assistant Chief Foulks had a drive-home vehicle when he previously held her position. The drive-home vehicle’s attachment to the quality control officer’s job has been approved by both ex-Mayor Victor Ashe and current Mayor Bill Haslam due to the need for transportation after-hours associated with legitimate direct job-related responsibilities.

The planned move of her office to Regency Business Park in light of the fact that her supplies are kept in the Locust Avenue Fire Station is also problematic. Such a move would necessitate many trips back and forth that are currently not necessary because her office is housed in the Locust Avenue station. There are no plans to move the supplies to the Regency Business Park location.