…. And Getting Personal
Note: A recent article in the Washington Post reported on the conclusion of a jury trial in which a sexual harrassment complainant was awarded a settlement. The original incident took place in 2001. For background you can read the STORY HERE.
Questions Asked During a Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (FCFRD) Recruitment Interview:
Does your husband approve of this profession?
Do you enjoy having sex with more than one partner?
Do you like to be watched while you masturbate?
First, a disclosure: I was affiliated with FCFRD from 1975 to 1998 and I know many of the persons referenced in US District Court Judge Cacheris’s Memorandum .
Fairfax, often seen as an innovator, once again moves to the front of the line by introducing blatant sexual harassment as part of the hiring process. Why wait till the fire house if you can start during the interview process?
The County’s attorneys, famous for pursuing odious cases that damage the institutional fabric of the community and the agencies involved, did their lawyerly best to destroy plaintiff’s claims that sex toy inquiries do not a happy work place make. The jury thought otherwise, taking all of three hours to decide that $250K is the direct cost to taxpayers when fire officers add sex-based questions to the interview process.
Defendant’s likely motivation? He’s lazy, of course. He employed the Bill Clinton/John Ensign "look no further than those I have power over" approach to lining up the next orgasm. The judge (and I’ll bet the jury) took special offence to the defendant’s repeated assertions that he "knew things about her", a gross power play that smacks of blackmail or coercion.
This case is especially egregious as it involved a prospective employee and the perpetrator was a supervisor. Once it was brought to light, management’s no nonsense and courageous response was a letter of reprimand and a transfer, actions sure to strike mortal fear in the hearts of sexual harassers everywhere. Actual leaders would, of course, understand that since their own managers were engaging in such conduct that something a little more costly than a reprimand would be necessary. But not in Fairfax, apparently.
Judge Cacheris’s memorandum details a fire-rescue department immersed in a culture saturated with sexual banter, and worse. One fire fighter said ‘he "knows" that comments such as "tea bagging" [a slang term for oral sex] and "protein shake," a slang term for ejaculation, happen "everyday" both at his fire station and others and "that is how [the Department]is[, and] it has always been like that…’
And, there are other shoes to drop. Another federal trial alleging more sexual harassment is slated to begin next month, apparently involving some of the same players. At least it should make the deposition process easier. Maybe the attorneys will offer a two-for-one discount, though I doubt it.
But seriously, in the "management’s always right" Commonwealth of Virginia, Fairfax County’s attorneys will once again line up behind the knuckleheads, waste another million bucks or so and permanently alienate women in the FCFRD. What they should do instead, is take a hard look at the abysmal lack of leadership that gave rise to this ship wreck and make some changes before the whole operation glides beneath the waves in a most ungraceful fashion. But I won’t hold my breath for that.
To end on a slightly tangential but never-the-less relevant note, it is these cases that give the lie to all of the apocalyptic prophecies regarding gays and lesbians serving in the military or uniformed services. With but the most rare of exceptions, heterosexuals are in absolute and total command of both the workplace sex and sexual harassment fields and are not destined to relinquish claim to either in the foreseeable future. The specter of randy "queers" invading the workplace cruising for easy sex is insulting, ridiculous, and absurd. That job is already "firmly in hand", no pun intended, and Fairfax is the most recent proof of that.
……… Eric Lamar
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