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Jury Awards Dubuque Firefighter $575K in Harassment, Gender Discrimination Suit

— February 18, 2022

A jury just ruled against the City of Dubuque and Fire Chief Rick Steines in a gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit.

Earlier this week, a Dubuque firefighter was awarded $575,000 in damages, ending a sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit she filed against the City of Dubuque and Fire Chief Rick Steines. The civil suit was filed by Jami Boss and the court proceedings at the Dubuque County Courthouse lasted eight days. 

Gavel and two hardbound books on wooden table; image by Succo, via
Gavel and two hardbound books on wooden table; image by Succo, via

When commenting on the jury’s decision, Boss said she hopes it will “hold somebody accountable for the sexual harassment and discrimination that she endured.” She added:

“I feel like this is the first time someone really listened to my story…And I’m thankful that they understood what happened to me and the environment (at the fire department).”

According to a press release issued by the city shortly after the jury’s decision, Boss was awarded “past damages of $50,000 for gender discrimination and $75,000 for sexual harassment along with future emotional distress damages of $150,000 for gender discrimination and $300,000 for sexual harassment…The city intends to use the jury findings as an opportunity for reflection, review, and growth.”

Boss is still currently working for the fire department as a fire equipment operator and has been with the department since 2011. She filed her suit back in September 2020 claiming she “suffered years of sexual harassment while working as a firefighter.” Additionally, she accused the city of “violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act for sex discrimination and retaliation.”

During the court proceedings, the jury found that Boss “Boss proved her claims of sex discrimination and sexual harassment but not retaliation.”

Boss was represented by attorneys Paige Fiedler and David Albrecht. When discussing the jury ruling, Fiedler said:

“I hope the City of Dubuque listens to the jury and makes the changes that are necessary so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else, and that women who work for the city get a fair shake.”

The City of Dubuque and Steines were represented by Les Reddick. When asked what the city plans to do in light of the jury ruling, he said, “What I think happened is, two City of Dubuque employees testified against us, and that’s a very difficult hill to climb back out of.” He added:

“There wasn’t any way to come to an agreement to avoid this trial…We had absolutely no choice but to put it in the hands of the jury.”

What type of harassment did Boss endure, though? Well, according to the suit, Boss was told by multiple co-workers that she was “only hired to the department because she is female.” On top of that, the suit cited a “time when a male co-worker shoved his hands down the back of Boss’s pants.”  

During the proceedings, her attorneys also brought up “issues with the bathrooms at fire stations” and their lack of door locks. This particular issue “resulted in a male colleague walking in on Boss pumping breast milk for her baby in the bathroom because the station did not have a private place for her to do so.”

Additionally, the suit alleged Boss was “passed over for promotion to her current position multiple times in favor of male colleagues, and that a new practical exam was implemented just as Boss became eligible for promotion.” She was also allegedly “harassed following anonymous complaints about Boss violating the department’s residency requirement,” and “experienced tension with her co-workers after she encouraged a city intern to report harassment she was experiencing by then-fire department Capt. Jim Abitz.” 


UPDATE: Jury awards Dubuque firefighter $575,000 for sexual harassment, discrimination

Dubuque firefighter who sued the city for sexual harassment and discrimination awarded $575,000 in damages

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