Tulsa City Councilors Approve Settlement In Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Thursday, August 13th 2015, 7:57 pm
By: News On 6

After a lengthy discussion, Thursday afternoon Tulsa city councilors approved a $35,000 lawsuit settlement.

A firefighter applicant claimed the city and Tulsa’s fire chief discriminated against her and claims the chief took her photo to compare it to nude photos of her he’d been given.

Councilors gave the go ahead to settle the case, but not without some pushback over concerns a settlement sends the wrong message.

City councilors formally approve the $35,000 settlement to pay Jessica Chance who applied to be a Tulsa firefighter and didn’t get the job.

Chance filed a lawsuit in July of last year, claiming she didn't get the job because she’s a woman, even though she said she was more qualified than other applicants.

8/12/2015 Related Story: Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against Tulsa Fire Chief Settled

She also claimed she had to be photographed during her interview, something she said was used to compare to nude pictures Tulsa Fire Chief Ray Driskell had received from a Tulsa police officer.

Thursday afternoon, during the city council discussion, Gerald Bender with The City's legal department said those claims are bogus.

Read The Lawsuit

"A lot of the allegations that were made in this case, particularly with regard to what Chief Driskell may have known or what Chief Driskell may have done, are absolutely not true, absolutely not true," he said. "This case was filed in state court, it was removed to federal court. We filed motions to dismiss for the city and for Chief Driskell. Chief Driskell was dismissed out of this lawsuit."

The city's legal team calls the $35,000 settlement a "good business deal" to avoid it costing more if they continued to fight it in court.

City Councilor Blake Ewing expressed concerns about what message "settling" sends.

"Does this create a cover for employees to engage in bad behavior knowing that the City is going to defend itself and by virtue of that self-defense defend that employee as well," he asked. "People see settlements as paying money to someone to make it go away."

But Bender said that's exactly what it is - making the lawsuit go away to protect the city from losing even more money.

Ewing said he’d like to fight what he calls, “frivolous lawsuits” because they take advantage of Tulsans.

The $35,000 used to pay the settlement comes from a property tax fund set up for legal expenses.