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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fire Law with Curt Varone

Tampa Firefighter Suing for Sexual Harassment Is Fired

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A Tampa firefighter who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in March, was terminated the following day. Tanja Vidovic was terminated by the Tampa Fire Department on March 24, one day after she filed suit in federal court accusing the fire department of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
According to a memo signed by Tampa Fire Chief Thomas Forward, Vidovic was fired for violating regulations regarding moral turpitude, including “falsification, misrepresentation or material omission.” The memo is referenced in several news reports related to the story, but does not appear to be available online.
Vidovic’s lawsuit, filed on March 23, 2016 in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, alleges gender discrimination, sexual harassment – hostile work environment, and retaliation. It includes a number of instances where she claims she was treated differently on account of her gender, unfairly given poor evaluations by supervisors, and subjected to sexually harassing comments.
Despite the implication in the news headlines about the timing of the firing coming one-day after the filing of the lawsuit, it is unclear from the news reports whether there was indeed a retaliatory connection, or whether Vidovic timed the filing of the suit to beat the termination notice.
Here is a copy of the complaint: Vidovoc v City of Tampa



Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.