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California firefighter files layered discrimination suit

A firefighter is suing Cal Fire because he claims that he was discriminated against both for his sexual orientation and his disability. The 38-year-old man says that the discrimination nearly drove him to suicide.

This comes on the heels of an internal investigation into one Cal Fire supervisor whose behavior was so unprofessional and extreme that it caused several firefighters to experience physical illness from stress. The department is also feeling the effects of a scandal at the firefighter academy and elsewhere and the subsequent development of a office of professional standards. The standards office is now charged with teaching employees how to conduct themselves properly.

In the new discrimination case, the firefighter claims that he originally complained to the department in 2015. His complaint received no attention, however, until some of the other problems within Cal Fire came to the surface.

The firefighter, who revealed his homosexual orientation to his coworkers in 2013 after more than a decade of prior service, was the victim of name-calling, rumors of an underage affair and outright hostility by his bosses.

After he put in for a transfer to a position that would keep him away from car accidents -- which triggered episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder -- he was mocked again. His superior officer, who was the focus of other complaints prior to 2016, imitated the firefighter before others in a decidedly feminine and stereotypical manner and purposefully assigned him a position that would expose him to more traffic accidents.

Now, since his doctor has put the firefighter on medical leave and his leave is exhausted, the department has moved to terminate his employment.

There are at least four similar lawsuits being pursued that involve homosexuals and discrimination. In isolation, an incident of harassment may be seen as an aberration. When there are multiple scandals focused on the unethical and abusive behavior of supervisors, that's an indication of a massive breakdown in professionalism and a workplace culture that permits discrimination.

Situations like that seldom improve unless a few people step forward and press their cases in court. If you're being harassed or discriminated against at work, consider exploring your legal options.

Source:, "Told to stop ‘flaunting’ his sexuality, firefighter files discrimination lawsuit against Cal Fire," Adam Ashton, March 23, 2018

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