Florida Firefighter Awarded $245k for Gender Discrimination

A federal court jury has awarded a Tampa firefighter $245,000 for sex discrimination.

Tanja Vidovic was awarded the verdict on December 7, 2017 following a four-week trial in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She filed the suit on March 23, 2016 alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

Vidovic had been complaining to city officials about her working conditions going back to 2010, including being:

  • treated differently on account of her gender
  • unfairly given poor evaluations by supervisors
  • subjected to numerous sexually harassing comments, many by officers
  • propositioned by superior officers
  • passed over for promotion
  • harassed about pumping breast milk
  • reprimanded for violating rules that male firefighters broke without consequence

On March 24, 2016, one day after she filed the suit, Vidovic was fired for “falsification, misrepresentation, or material omission of statements, testimony, or any document or record completed in the course of employment or in obtaining employment, including group insurance claims.”

Back in 2016, the Tampa Bay Times quoted her as saying:

  • “A lot of the men on the job are fine with working with women, but the ones who aren’t seem to be really loud.”
  • “It’s accepted, people aren’t reprimanded for it. And it’s an environment of you’re a tattletale and you’re ruining the party if you say anything.”

Following the verdict, the Times quoted her as saying:

  • “I feel relieved.”
  • “I feel that we’re making steps in the right direction on how we treat women personally and in the workforce.”
  • “It’s been really difficult, but you have to keep going.”
  • “[I]t’s a struggle. I thought it was important to start making the changes to make it equal for all who work there.”
  • “These little steps that should’ve been taken years ago are starting to happen.”
  • “When we stand up for each other we’re working toward equality and working to make it better for the women who are working there now and hopefully our children who will work there in the future.”

The Times also quoted the city’s attorney, Tom Gonzalez, as saying: “This jury did not hear all of this case because they were not allowed to,” because the judge limited the time that the city had to present its case. Gonzalez has already requested a mistrial.

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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