This is an interesting one that has caused a great deal of discussion within the HR community. Essentially, four firefighters in San Diego are considering suing the department for requiring that they drive a truck in the San Diego Pride Parade against their objections. The firefighters state that they were subject to name calling, sexual taunts and physical gestures.
A member of a SHRM forum posed several questions regarding whether or not this situation subjected the employees (firefighters) to sexual harassment and whether or not they should have been required to participate under the threat of discipline.
Several members stated that this was a case of sexual harassment, while others claimed that it is the responsibility of public servants to participate in community events. Others brought up the “should have known” aspect of the situation while others discussed the “reasonable person” premise.
And one member, whom I really like, chalked it up to a seemingly statewide problem.
So the question I ask myself is what would I do if I were the HR person at the SDFD? Well, I’d like to think that I’d try to hear why the employees objected to participating and making a decision from there rather than just threaten blanket discipline. But it’s hard to know what goes on in other people’s business.
According to the above article, the Fire Chief (whom the article describes as a lesbian – if that really matters one way or another) didn’t necessarily anticipate a problem as she stated that “the fire department has participated in community parades and festivals, including 15 years at the gay pride parade, without a sexual harassment complaint.” But, it also sounds like she has apologized to the firefighters and is cooperating with the investigation. Which, I guess, is all an employer can do at this point.
What this really made me realize is that nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever clear cut in HR.