Firefighters Claim Sexual Harassment by US Forest Service

A group of seven current and former US Forest Service firefighters have filed a wide-ranging complaint alleging sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and gender discrimination.

The complaint was filed last month with the US Department of Agriculture, the parent agency of the US Forest Service. It was filed on behalf of hundreds of female firefighters who work, or have worked, in the Forest Service’s Region 5 in California.

One of the lead complainants, Alicia Dabney, was terminated by the Forest Service in 2012. Dabney claims that prior to being terminated she filed a complaint about a variety of sexually inappropriate activities on the part of male supervisors and co-workers. A web site devoted to petitioning President Obama to rehire her, claims Dabney made: “numerous complaints and allegations of physical and sexual assault, and other complaints of harassment. Her male co-workers have physically and emotionally demeaned her by calling her a ‘whore’ after breaking into her hotel room where they attempted to rape her. The men who attempted to rape her, break into her room, publicly called her a whore, made her urinate in front of the other men, and made her tell them when her period started. Alicia has recorded phone calls from her supervisor that were of a highly graphic and sexual nature.” A copy of that phone call is posted on the petition web site.

Dabney claims the Forest Service fired her shortly after she reported the misconduct on the pretext that she failed to disclose a criminal offense on her employment application.

The USDA has 180 days to investigate the allegations and reach a resolution, after which matter will go the EEOC. Thereafter, the complainants can file suit.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

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.

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