Humiliation, San Francisco Style
SFGate reports this week that some firefighters at the city’s Chinatown station, “waged a six-month campaign of harassment against a female co-worker, urinating in her bed and taunting her with verbal abuse, officials said Tuesday.”
Longtime fire chiefÂ Joanne Hayes-White wrote in a letter,Â â€œegregious harassing and retaliatory behavior by firefighters at Station 2 created a â€œhostile work environment based on gender.â€
The complaints of the abuse were investigated by the San Francisco Department of Human Resources and found to be credible.
The apparent sanction/remedy for overseeing a six-month harassment campaign is for the officers to be transferred, presumably so they can spread their odd style of leadership across the whole department, one golden shower at-a-time.
Life in the firehouse can be pretty bruising for some and a bit of razzing can be evidence of being accepted by the group.
That’s all cool as long as the group’s norms reflect the standards of workplace equality.
When they don’t, it’s called harassment.
Some firefighters still don’t get that the firehouse is a place of work like any other and subject to society’s requirements of fairness.
Verbal harassment has long been established as conduct worthy of sanction.
Overt acts are even clearer evidence of a workplace out-of-control.
Contaminating another person or their environs with human waste is recognized proof of an attempt to degrade and humiliate.
It’s not even in the same category as an inappropriate remark.
Once again, timid leaders fail to consider the symbolic significance of an act or word.
The transfer of supervisors as the sole on-the-record outcome for such behavior amounts to a surrender of principle.
This and other cases serve to remind us of the crucial importance of the judiciary and juries.
When Hayes-White and the City treat humiliation and degradation as a “transfer” offense, they invite the aggrieved party to appeal to the larger community for relief.
So-called city leaders should ask themselves two questions:
-How would a jury react to evidence of such treatment?
-Would you want your daughter subjected to such degrading actions?
Then, there is a third question: where is IAFF local 798 on the issue?
Justice, so often sought by Labor, means speakingÂ out forcefully on behalf of workplace equity rather than simply riding the wave of male hegemony.