Firehouse Sexual Harassment Policies Under Fire
A female firefighter at a New Smyrna Beach, Florida firehouse was told that there was “not enough money in the budget” for sensitivity training when she complained to the human resources department about the harassment she was experiencing on the job site. The harassment continued and escalated — leading to the firefighter’s eventual termination from employment.
Supervisors made it clear that they did not believe women belonged in the firehouse, and they disciplined her for behavior common to the firehouse. Male firefighters made sexually explicit comments and subjected her to pornographic videos. The plaintiff was told to “change her tampons in the car” and made to scrub toilets while others watched. When she announced her pregnancy, leadership was unhappy. Several disciplinary actions later, her job was terminated.
When her case reached a jury, the plaintiff won $444,000 in damages plus payment of attorney’s fees. Even on appeal, the appellate court judge affirmed the jury’s findings and required the city to pay the injured plaintiff the same award of damages. The standard used by most courts is designed to determine whether the plaintiff suffered one of the following types of harassment:
- Hostile work environment: Did the plaintiff experience severe and persistent harassment at work, to the point where the harassment interfered with his or her ability to perform job functions?
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment: Was the plaintiff offered a job opportunity preconditioned on his or her submission to unwelcome sexual advances? Did the plaintiff suffer an adverse employment action when he or she refused to submit?
Consult with a Florida sexual harassment attorney for skilled legal help with your case.