Bullying, harassment and discrimination are perceived to be problems in parts of the Fairfax County Fire Department, and nearly 40 percent of firefighters responding to a survey had experienced or witnessed it, according to a new report released Wednesday.
The analysis of the culture of the Fairfax County Fire Department was commissioned by the county in the wake of the high-profile suicide of firefighter Nicole Mittendorff, who was the subject of sexist and derogatory comments on a local Web forum before her death in April. It remains unclear who posted the remarks on the Fairfax Underground forum, or whether they played a role in Mittendorff's suicide, but fire department officials have been exploring whether the messages might have been posted by her colleagues.
Mittendorff's death and a series of lawsuits by other female firefighters alleging discrimination and sexual harassment prompted questions about the treatment of women in the department and touched off a discussion nationally about the low number of women in firefighting and the problems they face.
[Female firefighter’s suicide is a ‘fire bell in the night’]
The 53-page report by a management consultant group found strong dedication and pride among the Fairfax department’s 1,400 rank-and-file firefighters, but also issues with bullying, senior leadership and conflict management.