Women firefighters from LAFD are victims of hazing and reprisals, testifies the battalion commander | Business

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LOS ANGELES – Female firefighters are being harassed and retaliated by male firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department, according to graphic testimony given at a city commission hearing this week.

LAFD Battalion Chief Kris Larson, Women’s President of the Los Angeles Fire Department, told the LAFD Board of Fire Marshals that the women firefighters are refusing to file a complaint because the LAFD is “gossip” and that ‘they will face retaliation.

“There are women today who still clean excrement from their bathroom or toilet floors left by men today and that is unacceptable,” Larson said. “They don’t want to comment on it because they know that if a complaint is made at a fire station, it will happen.”

The Los Angeles Times reported in July on the culture of “brotherhood” that has driven some female firefighters from the department and renewed scrutiny from an agency that has long faced charges of discrimination.

Former LAFD firefighter Katie Becker told The Times about the harassment she said she suffered, including a case where the word “junk” was written on her helmet. She also said the male firefighters would “destroy” the women’s toilets. “People piss or defecate on the floor,” Becker said. “They make it clear that you are not welcome as a woman.”

Rebecca Ninburg, an LAFD commissioner, also recently described the department as a “very hostile work environment” for women during her recent testimony in the sexual harassment case involving former aide to mayor Eric Garcetti.

Some women firefighters have offered very different assessments. Chelsey Grigsby, who works at Station 20 in Echo Park, told The Times last month that she had “never been treated unfairly or felt I couldn’t say what I was thinking or anything like that, ever. “.

Larson, along with Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, gave a short presentation on her 113-member group to commission members at Tuesday’s meeting. She also provided a vivid summary of what female firefighters go through.

“There is absolute retribution within this organization,” Larson said. She also said that female firefighters did not trust the department’s complaint system and did not believe their complaint would be “administered fairly.”

Female firefighters on probation “are trying to keep their heads down,” Larson said. “They are more concerned with keeping their jobs than trying to report discrimination.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Larson said there were a lot of “wonderful” people at LAFD. But at some stations, firefighters make it difficult for women and other minorities, she said.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas and Commissioner Delia Ibarra urged Larson to report complaints of harassment and retaliation.

Terrazas said the department must follow due process outlined in the city’s charter, the state firefighter’s bill of rights, agreements with the firefighters union and more. “I am not neglecting what Chief Larson says,” he said.

“This department takes these things very seriously,” he said. “But we cannot act on rumors and innuendos.”

Ninburg, responding to Terrazas, said the chief’s solution “is part of the problem” because women are too afraid to press charges. She urged him to “create a safe environment” so that firefighters feel safe.

Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman said on Wednesday that “the incidents described are very disturbing, and Mayor Garcetti has absolutely no tolerance for bullying or discrimination of any kind in the workplace. “. Wollman said the mayor had pledged to complete an assessment of women’s experiences in the department and to make “the necessary changes.”

City Councilor Monica Rodriguez, who chairs the city’s public safety committee, said on Wednesday the city had “zero tolerance” for harassment and that any complaint required an “immediate and thorough investigation.”

“The city has a legal obligation to protect victims from retaliation when they report cases of harassment or discrimination in any department, and we must vigorously protect those who have the courage to stand up and speak out against odious conduct.” , said Rodriguez.

The fire department has a history of incidents involving fecal matter and harassment of black firefighters, according to a 2018 lawsuit filed against the city by firefighter Emanuel Brown. Brown said he found feces in a compartment where he stored his jacket and breathing apparatus.

He later alleged that he suffered harassment, retaliation and racial discrimination for reporting misconduct.

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