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Inside Draycott's locker, someone wrote "dead" on a picture of her daughter who'd been killed in a car wreck and "die" on a picture of Draycott, according to filings.At the time, department was already reeling amid other racial discrimination accusations after two noose-like knots were found in firehouses.They said Vera's daughter sometimes called the victim 'dad' and knew about their relationship.

The city did not comment on the suit, while the firefighters' union pushed to see more evidence released in the case and decried long-standing criticism of the department.

"Dozens of firefighters cooperated in the various investigations of this incident, but unfounded criticism of Houston firefighters has continued for years," Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton said.

The DOJ lawsuit follows an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding in favor of the two women at the center of the claim.

Other women who previously had worked at the same station made similar complaints -- but the department failed to act, the lawsuit alleges. "We will aggressively protect employees who are victims of sex discrimination and retaliation and pursue employers who violate the law." The mayor's office initially declined Wednesday to comment on the new lawsuit.

"Far too often, women are targeted and harassed in the workplace because of their sex," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.

"Employees have the right to work in an environment that is free from sex discrimination and retaliation." The conduct continued over time despite at least nine complaints to management, which failed to remedy the situation and allegedly created a hostile work environment for firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes.

When Draycott returned to work in early 2010 following her complaints, she alleged, HFD retaliated against her by letting her coworkers publicly disparage her.

At one point, she filed suit against the department, detailing the summer 2009 graffiti incident and alleging sex discrimination dating back to 2000. Draycott was ultimately forced into early retirement due to "intolerable" working conditions, according to the Justice Department.

28--The Justice Department has sued the city of Houston over sex discrimination claims launched by two female firefighters who say their male coworkers tormented them by urinating on the women's bathroom walls and sinks and scrawling vulgar slurs on their belongings.

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