When a female firefighter made sexual harassment complaints to her supervisors, they told her to “let it go” or keep it “in house,” according to a report resulting from an internal affairs investigation in Volusia County. Their failure to address the claims came back to “burn” them: at least three lieutenants were disciplined for failing to address her claims, and two captains were fired.
The months-long investigation, initiated by the County Manager after a conversation with a group of female firefighters, did not conclude that the female firefighter had been the victim of unwanted sexual advances. However, the post-investigation report did agree with her that male firefighters were sleeping in their “tighty whity” underwear around female firefighters and watching the Playboy channel while on duty. The female firefighter’s partner was disciplined for poor job performance and for his TV viewing choice.
The captains unsuccessfully blamed their failure to deal with the complaints on inadequate supervisory training. The county noted that all county employees receive training regarding sexual harassment when hired and supervisors received additional sensitivity training. Nonetheless, the county is now having a series of “serious sexual harassment training especially among supervisors.” It also has also begun renovating fire stations to provide separate sleeping and shower quarters for men and women firefighters.