Firefighter sues Texas city for failing to prevent sexual harassment
Firefighter Kelly Gall said the city of Austin failed to take action against Lt. James Baker, who filmed Gall in a restroom, after reports of inappropriate behavior
By Maria Mendez
AUSTIN — Firefighter Kelly Gall is suing the city of Austin for failing to prevent sexual harassment from former Austin fire Lt. James Baker, who pleaded guilty in October to filming Gall in a fire station restroom.
In a civil lawsuit filed in Travis County this week, Gall says the city failed to take action against Baker, her former supervisor, for previous reports of inappropriate behavior.
"The city knew or should have known of the harassment based on previous complaint(s) related to Baker's inappropriate sexual behavior," the lawsuit states. "Baker's sexual harassment was sufficiently severe/and or pervasive as such that it altered the conditions of Gall's employment and created an abusive working environment."
According to the lawsuit, Baker intruded on Gall's privacy when he placed a spy camera in the women's restroom of their fire station at 401 Fifth St. while Gall was out responding to a fire call on Sept. 4, 2017.
When Gall returned from the call, she found Baker leaving the women's restroom, the suit says. Baker told Gall he had been getting soap to wash his feet. But when she showered, she found a spy camera on a shelf facing the shower, according to the suit.
Austin police's investigation revealed footage in the spy camera of Gall showering and of Baker placing the camera. During Baker's criminal trial in October, his lawyers said he never actually viewed the footage of Gall.
"The intrusion by Baker was highly offensive to Gall," the lawsuit states. "Gall suffered and continues to suffer mental and emotional injury as a result of Baker's intrusion."
Gall's attorney, Christopher C. Wike, was not available Wednesday for comment.
After Gall reported Baker for placing a hidden camera in the women's restroom of the fire station located at 401 Fifth St. in September last year, it was revealed Baker had previously been reported for inappropriate contact in March 2013. Three firefighters reported Baker for placing his hands down female patients' shirts for no apparent medical reason during medical checks.
The Austin Fire Department forwarded the complaints to the city's medical director, who is in charge of the city's first responders. But Paul Hinchey, the medical director at the time, did not take any action against Baker because no violation of standards was found.
Gall's lawsuit states "the city failed to take prompt remedial action" for these previous accusations.
City officials said in a statement Wednesday that they haven't received the lawsuit yet, but "are aware of the recent criminal case against Mr. James Baker and don't condone his actions."
"As soon as the city learned of the allegations, we cooperated fully in the criminal investigation," the statement says. "When it comes to our workforce, the city does not tolerate harassment of any kind and we strive to be an inclusive workplace for all of our employees."
Baker pleaded guilty to invasive visual recording in his October trial. After reaching a plea deal with prosecutors, Baker was adjudicated of charges, avoiding prison time, and was ordered to surrender his credentials to be a firefighter or emergency medical technician.
Gall is suing Baker for unspecified damages related to emotional distress.
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