A South Florida municipal fire department is under scrutiny by the EEOC for complaints of sexual harassment and discriminatory treatment brought by at least 10 employees. The filings have also prompted a visit from U.S. Department of Justice officials, who have already ordered the city to rewrite its policy on how it treats pregnant firefighters.
In one complaint, a female firefighter alleges that supervisors timed her daily bathroom visits before terminating her, yet did not subject her male colleagues to the same treatment. The complaint also alleges that the fire department’s leaders described women as second-class workers because they could get pregnant. Another complaint alleges that a firefighter lost her baby because her supervisor refused to let her go on light duty until her 2nd trimester.
Despite state and federal protections, many female firefighters are still subjected to unlawful conduct ranging from verbal abuse to physical assault. The president of the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services describes many fire departments as a throwback to the 1960s, where bias and discriminatory treatment of women is still prevalent. The association also reports that it gets inquiries about potential discriminatory treatment at least once a week from firefighters across the country.
Dealing with discrimination and unfair treatment can be devastating to any employee. In the firefighting industry, however, it can be deadly because of the teamwork required to get out of hazardous conditions. For that reason, some firefighters may hesitate to file a complaint with the EEOC, fearing retaliation from their coworkers. If you are the victim of unfair treatment in the workplace but are unsure how to proceed, an attorney can advise you on the steps you should take.
Source: Sun-Sentinel.com, “Female firefighters in South Florida face discrimination, harassment,” Susannah Bryan, July 9, 2012