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South Florida's female firefighters subject to sexual harassment

Although South Florida's workplaces have evolved quite a bit over the past decades, sexual harassment is still an unfortunate problem plaguing many Broward County employees. According to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, sexual harassment and gender discrimination is a major issue in firehouses.

In Davie, Florida, alone at least 10 firefighters have filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And back in 2010, a female Miami Beach firefighter received a $700,000 jury award after filing a sexual harassment suit. That firefighter had experienced a variety of harassment on the job, including derogatory insults, and discovering her bathing suit covered in semen, hidden in a firehouse locker.

In one incident in Davie, a female firefighter said her supervisors timed her bathroom breaks, though they did not time the bathroom breaks of the male firefighters. She also said that her colleagues referred to women as second-class employees, citing the possibility that they could become pregnant.

In fact, the fire department in Davie has been ordered to update its policy regarding its treatment of pregnant firefighters after one firefighter who was not allowed to take on lighter duties until her second trimester lost her baby.

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination in firehouses seems to be a problem in other states as well. The president of a firefighters union in Nebraska said that it receives related inquires at least once a week.

Because of the nature of their work, some firefighters may fear dangerous retaliation if they complain about discrimination or sexual harassment. The Miami Beach firefighter who received the $700,000 harassment award said she no longer works in the field, because she worries the other firefighters would not look out for her--the way firefighters do for each other--in a fire.

Workers in any industry should not have to deal with sexual harassment or gender bias in the workplace and they should not have to worry about being retaliated against for standing up for their rights. Workers are wise to speak to an experienced employment law attorney about these issues.

Source: Sun-Sentinel.com, "Female firefighters in South Florida face discrimination, harassment," Susannah Bryan, July 9, 2012

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