SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A sexual harassment scandal involving the San Francisco Fire Department is becoming so serious that the fire chief has stepped in and announced that all the firefighters at one station will be transferred out.
There are allegations of an affair and retaliation. The station at the center of this controversy is Station 2 in Chinatown.
Sources tell KRON4 that this all started to unfold when an affair between a married battalion chief and a female firefighter came to light. Other personnel spoke up about the affair, claiming that the two were sleeping together at the station, but upper management did not take action, sources told KRON4. And that is when the hazing began.
There are reports that feces was smeared on lockers, of urine in the female firefighter’s bed, and of safety gear hidden.
Fifteen percent of the 1,662 San Francisco firefighters are women. The San Francisco Human Resources Department would not elaborate on their investigation, saying personnel matters are confidential.
But they did say that the city and county has a zero tolerance for harassment.
In a letter obtained by KRON4 from San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, it reveals these details: stating that the human resources department did find a hostile work environment for the female firefighter at Station 2 after conducting a month’s long investigation. And the letter revealed verified incidents of “egregious harassing and retaliatory behavior at Station 2 signify deficiencies in leadership at the company and battalion levels.”
In response, the chief writes, “The department will move all Station 2 officers to new assignments. And the transfers will take place starting Oct. 8.”
The chief also sent out the city’s discrimination, harassment, and retaliation-free workplace policy, directing all firefighters involved in the harassment to sign and return it, and that a copy would be placed in their personnel files.
KRON4 reached out to several female firefighters.
They would not comment on camera, but one did say that she couldn’t believe harassment like this could be happening in 2016.
Hayes-White spoke about the allegations during a news conference announcing festivities for the fire department’s 150th anniversary, happening this weekend at Fisherman’s Wharf.
While declining to provide specific details about the case, Hayes-White called the situation in which a female firefighter was reportedly targeted and harassed by male employees “disappointing.”
“Obviously very poor judgment was exercised and we will get to the bottom of it,” Hayes-White said.
When asked about the female firefighter who was reportedly a victim of harassment, Hayes-White confirmed she had spoken with her and admitted she was proud of the woman.
“She’s remaining strong. I had no doubt she would and she has assured to me that we are going to work through this and I believe she wants to remain a proud San Francisco firefighter,” according to Hayes-White.
“By and large our firefighters are the best in the nation. Do we have some problems we need to fix? Yes. But I don’t want in any way people to think that this is conduct that we would say is ok because it’s not,” Hayes-White said. “Generally the numbers will show that we have members that have been in our department for years and years, including women. That would lead one to believe that our workplace is inviting. And if there are problems, we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Bay City news contributed to this report.