The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Sexual Harassment in the Fairfax County Fire Department

May 23, 2016

Firefighter Magaly Hernandez of the Fairfax County Fire Department filed a lawsuit laying out years of sexual harassment.

Court documents outline years of abuse starting in October 2013, when Hernandez was transferred to a new fire station under the supervision of Captain Jon Bruley.

“Bruley’s harassing behavior included physically restricting Hernandez’s movements, frequently invading her personal space and touching her, making repeated unwanted sexual advances and comments towards her, demanding hugs, and tracking her movements including when she used the restroom,” according to the suit.

The documents cite other incidents including an occasion where several male firefighters duct taped a female firefighter to her chair, and a male lieutenant threatened a female firefighter with violence without being disciplined.

“What we are seeking in this lawsuit is to put an end to the regular and systematic harassment of women in the fire department,” the attorney filing the suit said.

No one should believe it was only Bruley responsible for this kind of behavior. The fire official in charge of investigating workplace misconduct, Guy Morgan, was placed on leave for having lewd content on his Facebook page.

Some firefighters who spoke with TV channel WUSA9 were too fearful of being recorded. One retired female firefighter said harassment was so bad, she tried to kill herself. Another firefighter, Nicole Mittendorf, who was attacked on a local underground forum, did kill herself. Anonymous people claiming to be her co-workers criticized her body, her sex life, even her death.

Sexual harassment is not new. Since this story broke all kinds of things have come out. Female newscasters, for example, have been reading on air hate emails and tweets they have received from viewers.

In fact, sexual harassment in male-dominated professions is the norm. Women make up only four percent of career firefighters or paramedics. Often women choose male-dominated jobs because they pay more than female-dominated jobs.

One poster on the underground site summed it up best: “Fairfax Fire Department personnel, hiding behind anonymity, feel it is their right to denigrate and humiliate their female work colleagues via sexual harassment. This is indicative of an attempt to drive women out of the fire department.”