Written by a Female Lieutenant currently working for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, please read my comment, I’m someone who has worked here for 14 years:
I can’t believe I’m commenting because I wrote Eric’s CLICK BAIT articles off a long time ago, but this came up at work (I guess that’s what you’re looking for right?)
“In less than 48 hours, the post has been shared over a thousand times — people find it useful even if you don’t.”
This is the saddest part to me, what you wrote in your comment to Stephanie. That people are going to see this article and share it with other people who are going to think that Fairfax County Fire and Rescue mistreats, disrespects and harasses women – when they don’t. Are there a few bad apples? Sure, there are bad male AND female apples. Is the fire department, our fire department, worse than any other place of business? I don’t think so – not by a longshot. There are a minority of males who act inappropriately and there are a minority of females who act inappropriately. I know this because I had to take a step back after Nicole passed and really evaluate it and the department as a whole as more information came in over the past few years. What I’ve come to realize after it all, after 14 years of living, working and teaching here, is that personal accountability on the parts of those misbehaving or acting inappropriately is lacking, and – again – this is from both men and women. And leadership was lacking in making sure that personal accountability was being taken seriously. I’m not excluding myself from that judgment. If anything, after Nicole passed I have constantly evaluated and reevaluated my own actions and behavior. Making sure folks are being held personally accountable starts first with that individual and then at the shift level, with the LT’s and Captains, enforcing those standards. The department has taken steps to better educate our leaders and I am confident that all this education will, in turn, get us somewhere better in that regard. But, are women targeted, mistreated and harassed just because they’re women? Absolutely not, Absolutely not. Not in my own personal experience and not in the 14 years of females I’ve known, spoken to and worked with has anyone been treated in just that way. If there is any type of harassment happening, my opinion is that it stems from the very competitive environment that does exist in our culture here. And that competitive culture, I believe, affects both men and women alike. But, perhaps, men are less willing to talk about it. And that’s unfortunate and, I hope, is something that can change. But women being mistreated, held back or harassed just because they’re women? Nope doesn’t exist in this culture here. Sorry to ruin all you journalists’ field day. It really saddens me now to think that others outside of our department believe these lies to be true. Lies compiled from a few people’s one sided stories and opinions and journalists willing to take those stories and run with them. People who have not directly worked here either recently or ever, willing to put a catchy headline to a few opinions and place biased blame and shame on an entire department. It’s just plain wrong.
Let’s do this — assume every single word I have written on the issue is completely wrong.
You are still left with a United States Court of Appeals decision by a panel of judges which is scorched-earth where the County and the FRD’s treatment of women is concerned.
They laid it out:
“…we observe that the written reprimand Hernandez received for “workplace violence” and “unbecoming conduct” arose from a verbal disagreement. On its face, the severity of the reprimand appears disproportionate to the brief, non-physical altercation. The County employee who investigated the basketball incident described it as “minor” when compared with other altercations between firefighters that he had investigated in the past.”
The Court found, “that based on the relative severity of the reprimand, its timing, and the other evidence in the record leading up to Hernandez’s protected activity, a reasonable jury could determine that the County retaliated against Hernandez.”
FRD officers piled on a female member, lowering the boom on her in an incident, that had it involved males, would never have been reported. One standard for the boys and another for the girls. That is blatant discrimination and unequal treatment.
While I understand that it’s convenient to attack the messengers, calling them dinosaurs, etc., the Fourth Circuit decision gives the lie to people who say “it’s all good.”
Those judges had no ax to grind, all they did was review the evidence, on its merits, and the results were devastating for the FRD and the County: the FRD is not only guilty of sexual harassment, but could easily be found guilty of retaliation against those with the courage to defend themselves.
You spend half of your comment saying there isn’t a problem and the other half enumerating it.
Your comment and others are a clear indication that sexual harassment and bullying have been effectively normalized and even institutionalized in the FRD to the point that for you, harassers are just a “few bad apples.”
Whatever happened to zero tolerance?
There is an obsession among some of you regarding whether or not an interested party ever served in the FRD and if so, when. That answer then is used to weigh their credibility. The great irony is that the folks who matter most never worked at Fairfax and never will: members of the Federal Judiciary who own your future.
Regarding the normalization of bullying and sexual harassment, how can the union effectively represent women if their leadership is implicated in the crisis?
You took great offense that the original post has been shared widely across the U.S, in fact, the three posts have been shared over 3,000 times.
I am actually happy about that because other fire departments and local unions need to learn what can easily happen to a once progressive institution when human values become skewed.
(There is a constant inference that I write about this for money, I have never made a cent and, in fact, have spent $1,000 of my personal funds to highlight that particular post because of its paramount importance as it relates to suicide, bullying and sexual harassment.)
I labor under no belief that anything I say will have the least effect on the FRD.
I don’t need to worry about that because the judges have spoken and will likely speak again, a fact that can neither be minimized nor dismissed.
So, if it helps, disregard every word I have written but keep the Fourth Circuit decision close at hand.
Eric Lamar served as a Fairfax firefighter for 22 years before retiring in 1998; he has been a member of IAFF Local 2068 for 43 years and served as its president for part of that time.