ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A jury decided a female Albuquerque firefighter suffered years of sexual harassment while on the job in a case that put a spotlight on continued challenges for women who choose careers in male-dominated workplaces.
After a five-day trial and four hours of deliberations, a District Court jury awarded $183,550 in damages to Adele Parker.
“I’m just trying to make a safe workplace for my daughter or your daughter, if she wants to be a firefighter,” she told KRQE News 13 in February.
The lawsuit alleged she had endured years of sexual harassment over a 13-year career with the Albuquerque Fire Department and described firehouse conditions where men watched porn in her presence, groped her, and watched her shower. It also listed an incident where she claims a man stood over her with his penis exposed as she woke up from a nap.
Parker says she decided early on to keep quiet about on-the-job harassment to avoid being labeled as a “rat,” but says the harassment kept happening.
Two months ago, Albuquerque Police responded to Fire Station #16 to investigate a motion-activated hunting camera found in her bunkroom, along with a piece of fruit in the shape of a female sex organ hung on the door. It was her first day on a new assignment at the station.
In court, Parker’s attorneys painted a picture of a woman who worked hard to get into the fire department as a 32 year old, competing against 20-year-old men at the academy, and who continues to work hard as a department paramedic.
Lawyers hired by the city of Albuquerque to fight the sexual harassment claims painted a different image of her, according to Parker’s attorney.
“The city took the position that Ms. Ortega invited this conduct, which we thought was pretty outrageous,” he said. “They said that she invited or welcomed the sexual conduct.”
Attorneys at Conklin, Woodcock & Ziegler did not respond to requests for comment.
Part of Parker’s lawsuit included claims that AFD retaliated against her after she filed the lawsuit by denying her reasonable accommodations after an injury and passing over her for a job opening. The jury decided AFD didn’t retaliate against her.
The Albuquerque Fire Department refused to comment for the story.
“I hope that in the future, they will observe their sexual harassment policies and protect women to make sure they have a safe place to work, so it’s not just a boys’ club of firefighters,” Cadigan said.