The premiere of the ABC drama “Station 19” is another example of art imitation life in America. Indeed, a growing number of firefighting units are being headed by women. But while women are making advances in a male-dominated industry, discrimination still exists.
A recent lawsuit involving female firefighters in Houston, Texas exemplifies the plight of their counterparts in West Virginia as well as women who work in other industries throughout the state. Here is a look at the firefighters’ claims and an employee’s rights if they experience workplace harassment.
The lawsuit alleges that male firefighters made obscene, vulgar and derogatory comments to their female counterparts. But the obscenities didn’t end with their coworkers. The suit goes onto say that the men made derogatory commentary when responding to fires involving an LGBTQIA victim. Some of the women even claim that they received death threats.
Hostile work environment
Much of the lawsuit centers around the allegations of the extreme lengths male firefighters went to harass the women. The employees would tape fireworks to the toilets in the women’s restrooms, urinate on their beds and spit tobacco in their desks. Some women feared if they spoke up about the behavior that they would be retaliated against and the conduct would continue.
What are an employee’s rights if they’re being harassed?
Luckily there are laws to protect female firefighters and other victims of workplace harassment from unsafe working conditions. If an employee believes that they are being harassed they should review the company’s anti-harassment policy. The policy may be found in the employee handbook or on the company’s website. The policy should outline the steps that an employee can take if they believe that they are being harassed. An employee also has the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if the problem isn’t resolved after speaking with a supervisor.
Everybody has the right to feel safe at work. Unfortunately the conduct exhibited by the male firefighters is an all too common occurrence in the workplace. However there is hope that if the Justice Department is successful in their suit it could make male firefighters think twice before harassing their coworkers.