In April of 2015, I wrote an article on my perspective of women in the fire service. In the article I spoke regarding a local department that recently had harassment charges brought forward by several women. Some of those charges included the fact that there were not separate sleeping arrangements for men and women at a majority of the stations.
In your department, if there is any harassment charges brought forward, we as leaders must respect the person or persons bringing the charges forward. In the article I spoke of earlier, the mayor actually stated that he didn’t believe there were any problems on the fire department and there are always going to be whiners in any job. So, if you are a female and work for that department and believe you are being harassed then the mayor has already labeled you as a whiner and complainer if you bring those issues forward. How likely is anyone to speak out with that kind of attitude at the top?
One year later one of those original females had the,(well you know), to actually file a harassment lawsuit against the department (read the article here – http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/tampa-firefighter-fired-after-filing-harassment-suit/2272213) and a very short time later she was fired. I guess the mayor stuck to his guns and again labeled her as a “whiner.”
The Chief of the department stated in his memo to the female firefighter that she “violated the city personnel manual, specifically: “falsification, misrepresentation, or material omission of statements, testimony, or any document or record completed in the course of employment or in obtaining employment, including group insurance claims.”
The department spokesman declined to comment. No need. The Mayor and the Chief said it all.
We all know that if there are male and females working in the same environment things are going to happen between them regardless of the policies. That doesn’t make it harassment, but it can provide an opportunity for it. No one can stop it, but we as leaders can address it. We must make it known that this type of behavior is not tolerated and if something is brought to our attention, we have to deal with it appropriately.
As I stated in the article a year ago, the mayor made dollars available to address the privacy issue. Curtains. That’s the solution for now. How many stations have been built in the last thirty years? I am betting it’s more than the number that have privacy cubicles.
It is unfortunate that we still elect and appoint leaders who would fit better in the 1950’s than in today’s world. For those leaders (term used loosely) it is time to wake up, woman in the fire service is not a trend, it’s been here for a long time. Things like privacy issues should have been addressed a long time ago. And certainly termination is not the answer to any of the aforementioned issues. Communication, education, and understanding are what we need from our leaders today.
As I said before, it all starts at the top.
Stay Safe, Everyone Goes Home
William Jolley has 37 years of experience in the fire service with 20 of those years in a management position. William was the Fire Chief of Haines City, Florida, a city of Approximately 20,000. Prior to that William was the Assistant Chief of Saint Petersburg, Florida, where he worked for 35 years.