Report: FL Female Firefighters Face Discrimination, Harassment

A recent news report says some female firefighters in South Florida still routinely face harassment on the job, including death threats and other verbal and physical abuse.

The Sun Sentinel report (http://bit.ly/Nnv0no) cites experts who say bias in the firehouse is still commonplace, despite federal laws against harassment and discrimination.

“It is 2012, but we still have a lot of issues out there,” said Jeanne Pashelek, president of the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services. “It ranges from verbal abuse to physical assault to rape.”

Two years ago, Miami Beach firefighter Marlenis Smart filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court. A jury awarded her $700,000 in March.

Smart, a mother of four from Miami Shores, says her bathing suit was splattered with semen and hidden in a locker, her bra was hung in the firehouse bay and she was called “stupid bitch” to her face.

“In 2012, to read this stuff is going on is unbelievable,” said Mike Teslar, a California firefighter who regularly attends industry conferences and monitors hiring and harassment trends. “In Dallas a couple years ago a chief got caught ejaculating into a woman firefighter’s coffee cup. It’s going to cost the city money. They can either spend it training or they can spend it defending all these lawsuits.”

Teslar said some fire departments are a “throwback to the 1960s,” when female firefighters were not welcome in the firehouse.

At the Davie Fire Department, supervisors timed Linda Stokoe’s daily bathroom visits before terminating her in 2009. Her male colleagues were not subjected to the same treatment, according to her lawsuit.

Stokoe’s lawsuit also says the fire department’s leaders said they did not think women belonged in the fire service and said women were second-class workers because they might get pregnant.

Federal investigators ordered Davie to rewrite its policy on how it treats pregnant firefighters after one woman lost her baby when her supervisor refused to let her go on light duty until her second trimester.

Read more of this report at http://bit.ly/Nnv0no.

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