Denver taxpayers pay $975,000 settlement for victim of sexual discrimination and her lawyers

Captain Colley Fisher won her case against the city’s fire department, which a jury said fired her vindictively.

Inside the Denver Fire Department's station number 1 on West Colfax Avenue, May 3, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Inside the Denver Fire Department's station number 1 on West Colfax Avenue, May 3, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

The Denver City Council signed a settlement check worth $975,000 Monday night, four years after Denver Fire Department officials fired Captain Colley Fisher in retaliation for filing sexual discrimination complaints.

In January a federal jury found that DFD violated the Civil Rights Act when they terminated Fisher. Court documents portray a hostile work environment for Fisher, who had complained about the “boys club” atmosphere, being denied overtime opportunities and being disciplined more harshly than male firefighters because of her gender.

Colley will receive about $392,000 for emotional distress and back-pay. The rest of the money will pay her lawyer’s fee. A judge actually awarded $1.2 million for the plaintiff’s cause, but Colley settled for the $975,000 total after the city dropped its bid to appeal the ruling.

In addition to the City and County of Denver, the complaint named six DFD employees: Shannon Anthony Berumen, Joe Gonzales, Peter VanderMiller, Eric Tade, Todd Bower and Jess Vigil. None were disciplined internally, according to DFD spokesman Greg Pixley. All still work for the fire department except for Vigil and Gonzales, who retired.

Pixley said the department reexamined its internal policies but could not specify what changes were made if any.

The payout is the latest in a long line of lawsuits related to gender discrimination that have been lost or settled during the Hancock administration. The latest was a $1.55 million settlement for a group of sheriff deputies who said the city failed to protect them from sexual harassment.

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