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The Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that four San Diego firefighters had their rights violated and were sexually harassed when they were forced to work during a 2007 Gay Pride Parade.  The firefighters were forced to be part of the parade in spite of the fact that they had informed their supervisor days earlier that they had objections.

The Appeal Court ruling stated: “that the record contains substantial evidence to support a finding that the sexual harassment experienced by the Firefighters during the Pride Parade was severe and pervasive, thus altering the conditions of employment and creating a hostile or abusive work environment.”

That “hostile and abusive work environment,” the firefighters testified, included nearly four hours of waiting and then traveling the parade route while being subjected to spectators and parade participants “licking their lips and engaging in simulated sex acts, including groping themselves and others.”  Even the parade announcer made lewd and suggestive comments and some spectators exposed themselves.

The firefighters were originally awarded damages ranging from $5,000 to $14,200.  They also received over $500,000 for attorney fees.  The firefighters maintain that the money was not the issue and they had filed the suit because they had been forced by their superiors to be involved.

If there are further appeals, Alliance Defense Fund, who filed and defended it on behalf of the firefighters, has vowed to take this case “all the way to the California Supreme Court” if necessary.

Prior to this ruling the City of San Diego had already changed their policy so that only firefighters who volunteer will be on hand for future gay pride parades.

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