A 10-year veteran California firefighter filed a federal lawsuit in February against her fire department employer, claiming she was subjected to years of sexual harassment, incidents of physical assault and denied training that male colleagues were provided.
This scenario involving firefighter LisaMarie Mason of the El Dorado Hills Fire Department appears to be a classic case of a victim in a hostile work environment. Mason had the courage to take action after years of abuse within the fire department’s “culture of sexism” as described in the documents filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
Stand up for yourself
No one should be subjected to unnecessary touching, being struck on the head, grabbed by the neck or coming to work to find their locker cleared out and the belongings in trash bags as Mason claims she was. Sexual harassment is illegal and just plain wrong.
If you are a subject to workplace sexual harassment, you must be prepared to stand up for yourself as firefighter Mason has. Many of us know that this is not easy to do so. A number of victims fear retribution, including being spurned by co-workers, assigned to undesirable work shifts or being terminated.
But you must ask yourself: Do you want to continue to face intimidation at work? Do you want to right some wrongs that have been going on much too long at your workplace?
Things you should do
Here are some guidelines as to what you should do if you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment:
- Keep a detailed record of every incident. Include times, locations, descriptions and the names of witnesses. Do this on your home computer or a personal notebook that you have with you. Don’t record it on workplace device.
- Save any questionable emails, texts and social media posts that target you.
- Understand the sexual harassment policies at your employer. Study the handbook if there is one. Remember, knowledge is power.
- Report the incident either to your manager or human resources. If the manager is the accused culprit, contact human resources. But if a crime has occurred, you should contact law enforcement.
Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in any facet of your life including the workplace. If you’re a victim you may not know whom to trust, but please consider taking steps toward changing a toxic environment.