On Monday evening, conservative KIRO radio host Jason Rantz linked allegations of “anti-male bias” to a recent hire in the Seattle Fire Department. The new employee, Jyl Shaffer, was hired as an Equal Employment Opportunity Investigator, a role responsible for ensuring compliance with federal civil rights laws in the workplace.

He made a big deal about it on social media, but he’s got nothing. His evidence for her alleged bias constitutes nothing more than a pair of settled lawsuits against Shaffer’s former employers, where neither party admitted any wrongdoing. Even more confusingly, he presented no evidence from Shaffer’s three years working in a similar role for King County Metro. 

Rantz Doesn’t Understand How Lawsuits Work 

Rantz’s main pieces of “evidence” for his smear come from two lawsuits filed against Shaffer’s employers–a couple of universities where she worked before moving to King County. However, neither lawsuit supports Rantz’s claim of her being a gender “partisan,” whatever the fuck that means.

The first suit involves an incident from 2016 at Montana State University, where a student claimed he was unfairly expelled for expressing anti-trans opinions to an instructor. The university settled the suit after a judge denied the institution’s motion to dismiss the case, and the university did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement. 

As a result, the allegations from the student’s complaint that Rantz decided to cherry-pick were never vetted in a court, nor did the student ever have to stand up to cross-examination by the university’s attorneys.

Further, if Rantz had bothered to ask any licensed attorney in Washington (such as yours truly), he would have learned that a judge has to treat the allegations from a plaintiff as true when ruling on a motion to dismiss. That means the student’s victory on that motion has very little bearing on whether the claims were actually true, and any responsible journalist wouldn’t rely on them without corroborating evidence–and Rantz failed to produce any such evidence. 

Rantz tried to back up the settled lawsuit’s claims by pointing out that Shaffer left her position as MSU’s director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX coordinator, but he failed to mention that she remained an employee of the institution by transferring to a role as an adjunct professor. So, since we don’t have any actual evidence of wrongdoing on Shaffer’s part from the lawsuit, leaving out the context that her employer kept her on campus creates a false impression that the allegations had more merit than they really did. 

The second lawsuit Rantz relied on effectively followed the same pattern, but with even less circumstantial evidence that it showed any of Shaffer’s alleged bias. 

While I’m not going to waste too much of your time on the details of that case, it does include a rather novel legal argument. In the case, a woman accused a man of sexually assaulting her when she was too inebriated to give consent. But then the man’s attorneys argued that he was so drunk that he was the one who was actually taken advantage of. Gotta say, the men’s rights lawyers have gotten real creative lately!

Anyhow, Rantz cited an article about the lawsuit in Reason that failed to mention Shaffer’s name a single time, but it did include confirmation from a university spokesperson that the settlement in that case did not involve an admission of wrongdoing. 

Rantz also failed to mention that the judge’s order denying the university’s motion to dismiss included the explicit disclaimer that “the Court does not intend to suggest that it has reached even a preliminary decision as to the merits of [the student’s] claim.”

Rantz’s Pandering Obscures the Real Problem

So what the hell does any of this have to do with the Seattle Fire Department’s compliance with federal civil rights laws? Well, nothing, until you zoom out and realize that there’s actually a big problem in how our country’s fire departments treat women employees.

The anonymous “SFD staffers” whining to Rantz seem to be worried about not getting a fair shake if the department assigns this “woke” investigator to a complaint against them. But–unlike Shaffer–they’ve got plenty of protection if they want to do any sexism on the job. 

First, the firefighters are unionized. That means they’ll have the right to a union representative in any disciplinary action against them stemming from any investigation Shaffer conducts, and they’ll also have the right to appeal any discipline to an arbitrator if they believe it’s the product of bias. Shaffer has no such protection, as the position she accepted is not represented. 

More importantly, there’s no proof that she’s actually done anything wrong! In an email, a spokesperson from King County Metro confirmed that Shaffer resigned from her job there on November 26. The spokesperson declined to comment on the reason for her departure, but, given her recent hire at the fire department, the most likely explanation is that she simply left for the new job at SFD.

Acknowledging all of this, of course, would be inconvenient for Rantz. After all, it wouldn’t help him pander to his sources within SFD, who are apparently upset about the ongoing staffing crisis but who don’t want to try to retain that staff by protecting the civil rights of their coworkers. But don’t worry, it’s not as if there are recent examples of a local fire department creating a hostile work environment for Black people or for women employees or anything.