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Maryland paramedic says homophobia put him at risk

A former Berlin Fire Department employee says that his coworkers discriminated against him at work, even to the point of refusing to help him in an emergency situation on the job, because of a perception that he is homosexual. 

The harassment and discrimination came to a head after he had been working for the department for four years, when he responded to a call for a car accident along with his colleagues. At the scene of the accident he needed help getting the victim onto a stretcher but was denied aid by the other firefighters. According to the lawsuit he recently filed, they also refused to drive the truck to help transport the victim to a hospital while the man helped the victim to continue to breathe.

The man had been involved with the fire department since he was a teen when he volunteered there as a cadet, but he experienced signficant harassment when he started as a paid employee in 2008. Complaints to supervisors went nowhere but eventually a department investigation led to city officials awarding him $600,000 because of the department's failure to address the harassment and discrimination.

An important thing to remember in this case is that it is not illegal under federal employment laws to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation. Some states and municipalities have passed their own laws protecting employees from this conduct, but in general it is still legal to discriminate on this basis.

Clearly the situation in this case went well beyond workplace teasing or even being denied promotional opportunities, but actually impacted the man's ability to do his job and put him and others in physical danger.

Source: The Daily Times, "Fired paramedic seeks $8 million in discrimination lawsuit," Charlene Sharpe, Aug. 29, 2013. 

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