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Tampa Firefighter Pushes For Change After Winning Discrimination Lawsuit

Roberto Roldan
WUSF Public Media
Tampa firefighter Tanja Vidovic won a $245,000 judgement against the city for discrimination.

A Tampa firefighter who recently won a federal lawsuit against the city is speaking out about workplace harassment.

Tanja Vidovic was awarded $245,000 in December. The court decided she was discriminated against because she was pregnant and then retaliated against when she complained.

On Friday morning, Vidovic told the civic group Cafe Con Tampa she now wants the city to adopt policies that acknowledge the experiences of female firefighters. She called for creating a new, non-discriminatory pregnancy policy, installing women's bathrooms in fire stations and making it easier for employees to report harassment.

"The policies that I'm requesting affect women and men," Vidovic said. "Being able to grieve harassment isn't a woman-only issue. Yes, it affects us in a higher percentage, but a lot of these policies are going to make the environment for everybody better."

After her young daughter told her she wanted to be a firefighter, Vidovic said she felt she had to speak up about her experiences in Tampa Fire Rescue. She filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in 2015 alleging sexual harassment and complaining about the lack of women's bathrooms in station houses.

"Seeing a toxic culture in the fire department, I thought to myself that it needed to change, that something had to change," she said. "I knew then that I shouldn't leave it to another woman, potentially my daughter, to try to fix."

Vidovic told the crowd of community leaders that at least 10 women in Tampa Fire Rescue had told her privately that they were also harassed, although none of them have come forward publicly.

"No one would stand up with me, because they see what happened to me," she said. "There wouldn't be a #Metoo movement if this was an isolated incident. The problem is this is a culture problem that we need to address."

Ashley Bauman, spokesperson for the city of Tampa, attended the speech. She declined to comment on the allegations made by Vidovic. 

The city announced late Friday afternoon that they would not appeal the federal ruling.

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