Canadian firefighter sues his employers for discrimination

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Canadian firefighter with 21 years of military service says he was subjected homophobic harassment which could be dangerous for his life and brought him into the stress condition. The man had previously served in the military for 21 years, working in the forces’ fire service for many of those. He then transferred to a civilian position with Department of National Defence at a naval base in Nova Scotia. The 2012 hearing ruled in favor of the employer, who has also not been named. However, the appeals tribunal – the final appeals process in the compensation system – ruled in August in favor of the worker, saying the behavior he had experienced was ‘scandalous’.

The firefighter says that he performed his duties well and sought promotion. He informed his colleagues that he was gay soon after joining his federal employer, but almost immediately ‘became ostracized and subject to harassment.’ He put this harassment down to the fact that he was gay, better-trained and ambitious, Daily Xtra reports.

In one incident, he was threatened with physical assault, while on another occasion, a ‘metal-skinned door’ was thrown at him. ‘On a third occasion, the Worker discovered that his breathing apparatus, part of his personal protective equipment, had been tampered with so as to allow outside air, gases and smoke to enter his facemask directly in the event of a fire. ‘In each of these last three instances, an objective person, whether or not employed as a firefighter, would perceive actual or threatened death or serious injury to himself or others, or perceive a threat to his physical integrity.’

The ruling found the worker’s account to be ‘credible’. The ruling commissioner, K. Andrew Neil, stated in his summary, ‘It is remarkable that the Worker remained in the workplace as long as he did, and more remarkable that the treatment to which he was subjected was allowed to continue through to the Worker’s departure from the workplace.

The tribunal ruling does not specifically name the base where the employer was based, but the only naval base in Nova Scotia is Canadian Forces Base Halifax. Approached for comment, a spokesperson for Maritime Forces Atlantic sent a lengthy statement that declined to speak about this specific case but asserted the organization’s zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.

Naval Captain (Capt(N)) Chris Sutherland, Base Commander Canadian Forces Base Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, said: ‘Out of respect for privacy legislation, we are not able to comment on any particular case or incident. ‘With that said, I think that it’s important to know that here at Canadian Forces Base (CFB ) Halifax, as across the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND), we are working hard to ensure that we have a harassment free workplace. This type of alleged behavior is simply not tolerated in our workplace.
Sutherland highlighted a number of reporting services that LGBTQ workers can use if they feel they are being treated unfairly: ‘We want to be seen as an employer of choice where all team members are treated equitably, fairly and consistently. Discrimination or harassment is not tolerated.”’

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