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Minnesota fire department votes to end workplace discrimination

In November, 2012, a same-sex marriage amendment will appear on the ballot in Minnesota as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure would define marriage, for purposes of the state's constitution, as between one man and one woman. If passed, the amendment will limit the freedom to marry to only heterosexual couples.

In anticipation of that vote, one local fire department recently passed a resolution to oppose the amendment. According to one firefighter, the department wanted to extend the same rights, respect and benefits to all coworkers to ensure teamwork and to implement an additional safeguard against workplace discrimination.

Sadly, this progressive department is not representative of many other firefighting departments nationwide. Despite state and federal protections, many firefighters are still subjected to unlawful conduct ranging from verbal abuse to physical assault. For example, the president of the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services describes many fire departments as a throwback to the 1960s, where bias and discriminatory treatment of women and/or minorities is still prevalent. The association gets inquiries about potential discriminatory treatment at least once a week from firefighters across the country.

Dealing with discrimination and unfair treatment can be devastating to any employee. In the firefighting industry, however, it can be deadly because of the teamwork required to get out of hazardous conditions. For that reason, some firefighters may hesitate to file a complaint with the EEOC, fearing retaliation from their coworkers. If you are the victim of unfair treatment in the workplace but are unsure how to proceed, an attorney can advise you on the steps you should take.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, "Duluth rally promotes defeat of Minnesota marriage amendment," Mark Stodghill, June 10, 2012

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