Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against Tulsa Fire Chief Settled

Wednesday, August 12th 2015, 4:16 pm
By: Richard Clark

The Tulsa City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on paying to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed against the city and its fire chief.

Jessica Chance sued the city and Chief Ray Driskell claiming she wasn't hired as a firefighter because she was a woman. The suit also claimed Driskell took a photo of her during an interview so that he could compare it to nude photos of her provided to him by a Tulsa police officer with whom she had had a relationship.

According to federal court records, Mayor Dewey Bartlett agreed to settle the case on July 27, 2015. He agreed the city would pay $35,000 to Chance and the judge signed the agreement.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015, the Urban and Economic Development Committee of the Tulsa City Council is scheduled to vote on approving paying the $35,000 out of the city's sinking fund, which comes from property taxes collected in the city.

According to the lawsuit, Chance applied to be a Tulsa firefighter in October 2011. It says she passed several written and physical exams from November 2011 through April 2012.

During the fourth round of the testing/hiring process, the lawsuit claims, Driskell told Chance to stand against a wall and pose for a picture. The lawsuit says Chance learned later from other applicants who were male that they were not photographed.

Chance found out in August 2012 that she didn't get the job, according to the lawsuit. She then learned that the photograph Driskell had taken was used to compare to nude photographs of her from a Tulsa police officer to confirm she was the one pictured in the photos, the lawsuit claims.

Read the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the nude photos were taken during a relationship she had with the Tulsa police officer.

Chance's attorney has not responded to repeated requests for a comment from him or his client. A spokeswoman for the City of Tulsa said she would check with its legal department and get back to us as soon as possible.

The settlement would be the second the city has agreed to on Driskell's behalf in just the last two months. In June the city settled with a former Tulsa Fire Department District Chief, who claimed he was demoted without cause.

6/11/2015: Related Story: Tulsa Settles Lawsuit With Former Firefighter Over Demotion

Jeremy Moore was the Administrative Chief for the department when he was demoted shortly after the city named Ray Driskell as Chief in 2012.

Moore had applied for the chief's job that went to Driskell. He eventually became chief of the Broken Arrow Fire Department.

The City of Tulsa settled his case for $60,000.

In both settlements, neither the City of Tulsa nor Driskell admitted to committing any of the acts the lawsuits claimed they did.

In a statement, the city of Tulsa said:

"In response to questions regarding the compromise settlement of the referenced case, the City and Chief Driskell, on advice of counsel, and in keeping with legal and ethical requirements regarding confidentiality of settlement negotiations, must necessarily decline comment at this time, other than to point out that records available to the public clearly demonstrate that Plaintiff’s claims against Chief Driskell were dismissed by Order of the Court entered November 03, 2014, and the case proceeded on Title VII claims set forth in Plaintiff’s Amended Petition and responses and Affirmative Defenses set forth in the City’s Answer filed of record on November 21, 2014."