John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
612-217-4988 877-390-4527

Sex discrimination and sexual harassment in firefighting

Many lines of work in Minnesota are historically dominated by men and have only in recent years come to grips with the problem of sex discrimination. Unfortunately, as these jobs have slowly opened up to female workers, these pioneering women employees have often faced another problem related to discrimination, sexual harassment.

One line of work that has struggled with overcoming sexual discrimination in recent years is firefighting. For years, fire departments argued that women weren't big enough or strong enough to handle the work of firefighting, but as women started to succeed at entrance exams, these departments had to change their ways.

Women now occupy important firefighting positions in departments all over the country, but sex discrimination and sexual harassment are still frustratingly common at fire departments. Saint Paul's Fire Department has been subject of several high-profile lawsuits over the past 25 years. In these suits women allege that the department was purposefully rigging its entrance exams to exclude women.

Sexual harassment lawsuits over fire departments in other states have alleged even more disturbing behavior. In one recent case, a female firefighter claimed that she was subjected to severe sexual harassment including unwanted sexual advances and having a co-worker place a hidden camera in her bathroom.

Often, the problem appears to be that fire departments don't take sexual harassment seriously. In one case, a female firefighter's sexual harassment lawsuit revealed that her employer's anti-sexual harassment training consisted of showing workers a video about sexual harassment on a split screen so that they could watch a NASCAR race at the same time.

Whether female or male, any employee that believes that they are being discriminated against in the workplace might have some recourse. If it is determined that they are a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination, they could seek compensation for their damages.

Minnesota's firefighters put their lives on the line to keep the public safe, and should be able to carry out their tasks at work without dealing with sexual harassment or discrimination. Employees should understand that no matter their occupation they should not have to deal with these situations or a hostile work environment. It is often best to speak with a qualified professional about the situation so rights and options can be explained.

Source: Fire Engineering, "The Dilemma of Being a Woman Firefighter, Part 1," John K. Murphy, Sep. 19, 2013

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Defending the Civil Rights of Vulnerable People

When employers discriminate or allow harassment and retaliation to take place or continue, we are dedicated to holding them accountable for their unlawful actions.

John A. Klassen, PA
Attorneys at Law
310 4th Avenue South     
Suite 5010      
Minneapolis, MN 55415     
Phone: 612-217-4988
Toll Free: 877-390-4527
Fax: 612-204-4534
Map and Directions