A Los Angeles, California, firefighter has received a nearly $500,000 settlement from his employer, the Los Angeles Fire Department, after he faced harassment that violated employment law under the Civil Rights Act. This firefighter repeatedly faced sexual discrimination and also religious discrimination from his co-workers.

The discrimination began in 2006 after some of his co-workers learned that the firefighter had brought a lawsuit against the Catholic Church in which the he alleged sexual abuse by a priest. The firefighter was subjected to explicit and offensive name-calling and other comments which created a hostile work environment. The firefighter informed management but the hostility continued.

With the help of an attorney, this firefighter brought the issue before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC investigated the allegations of workplace discrimination; in particular, the EEOC found violations to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that protects employees from facing discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” Also during the investigation, the EEOC found that the firefighter had experienced retaliation for his involvement with another EEOC investigation.

After the EEOC ruled that the discrimination violated Title VII, the Los Angeles Fire Department agreed to settle the case. In addition to monetary compensation, the department agreed to inform other employees and the public of the case and to take actions to prevent future discrimination. Due to the firefighter’s actions, the fire department has implemented new training and educational programs to prevent this type of harassment in the future.

The bottom line is that federal law protects employees from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, no matter the reason for it.

Source: Human Resources Journal, “LA Fire Dept Will Settle Charges With Close to Half a Million Dollars,” Mar. 15, 2012