San Francisco

Harassment Allegations Trigger Shakeup at San Francisco Fire Station

The San Francisco fire chief has ordered a command shakeup following what an internal probe found was a six-month long harassment campaign against a female firefighter stationed in Chinatown.

Mindy Talmadge, a department spokeswoman, would not comment about the specifics. But in documents obtained by NBC Bay Area, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White described the abuse as “egregious” and cited “deficiencies in leadership” at Fire Station No. 2 that allowed the harassment to go on from January to July.

Although department officials would not comment on the matter, citing personnel protections, multiple sources say it involved the smearing of feces in the woman’s locker room and urinating in the female firefighters bed.

The alleged abuse began, sources say, when fellow firefighters suspected the victim was having a relationship with a station commander.

The victim’s co-workers, in turn, say they suffered intimidation, alleging that at least one commander menaced them to keep silent about the affair.

The first outward sign of scandal came early this month when Hayes-White ordered 10 members of the chain of command at Station No. 2 – including four battalion chiefs – replaced.

She also ordered two firefighters at the station transferred as a result of what the chief called the “collective conduct of Station 2.”

Some 20 firefighters still at the station, meanwhile, have been officially warned that the probe found “inappropriate comments and actions by members of Station 2 against a female co-worker, which created a hostile work environment for that member.”

Those 20 firefighters were assured that the findings came after a “thorough and impartial investigation” by the Department of Human Resources.

The station’s firefighters now must sign a pledge to adhere to the city’s policies against sexual harassment.

While SFFD spokeswoman Talmadge would not comment about such cases, she said that the department acts swiftly in the face of harassment allegations.

“The city and the fire department have zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination and retaliation,” she said.

“We take any allegations very seriously and we take swift and comprehensive action to make sure that our workplaces are safe and welcoming for everyone.”

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