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Posted On: February 3, 2009 by Peter M. LaSorsa

Firefighters Sue City of San Diego For Sexual Harassment

Firefighters John Ghiotto, Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison were forced to ride a fire engine in the July 2007 gay pride parade near San Diego after a crew that had volunteered pulled out. The firefighers allege that during the parade, they were subjected to catcalls and saw barely clothed men simulate sex acts. They claim the behavior was so bad that at one point they rolled up their windows, put on headphones and stared straight ahead. The firefighters allege this constitutes sexual harassment--the city disagrees.

San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman met with the four fire fighters days after the parade, apologized and said she was working with the firefighters union to develop a parade policy. The four firefighters hired an attorney and filed a complaint with the city hours after meeting with the chief in 2007--that complaint is now being heard in court. This type of sexual harassment is based on a hostile work environment. In short, the fire fighters are claiming that being forced to participate in the gay pride parade and watch men simulate sex acts subjected them to conduct that they shouldn't have to tolerate at work.

Fire Chief Jarman testified. “Potentially, they could have been offended. It could be construed as sexual conduct issues under the city's policy. Not necessarily harassment.

A jury that heard the sexual harassment claim in September couldn't reach a verdict--so this is the second trial. In that trial, the four fire fighters asked for up to $1 million each for emotional distress.

The three-hour parade was attended by more than 100,000 people. According to the San Diego Union Tribune in opening statements, Deputy City Attorney Don Shanahan told the jury “a lot of firefighters didn't want to be in a the parade because they don't want to be in a gay parade. They didn't feel comfortable. That's different than sexual harassment.”

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