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Dallas' Fire Houses Are Much More Woman-Friendly Nowadays, DFR Swears

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Dallas Fire-Rescue has not, judging by the lawsuits, always been the best place to work if you're a woman. A for instance: way back, oh, three years ago, one might have found semen in one's coffee cup. But the department's working to change that, making considerable progress, in fact, DFR's equal opportunity employment manager reported to City Council members Monday.

Sherry Durant told council members that, even as the trio of sexual harassment lawsuits made headlines in 2009, the department was working toward improving its work environment. It had updated its sexual harassment policy and put in place an EEO compliance program in 2008. A women's conference followed in January 2009, then an EEO hotline, then, later that year, a round of workplace audits that are now an annual thing.

The audits are thorough, Durant said, covering every area of a fire house. This means checking everything from the firehouse's entertainment area (family-friendly comedies and adventure movies are OK. Hardcore pornography is not) to the sleeping quarters and lockers (Posters of Tom Brady dropping back to pass are a go, Gisele Bundchen in her skivvies, not so much).

The audits and other measures have significantly reduced claims of sexual harassment. The number of grievances dropped from seven in 2009 to two in 2011. Its women problem solved, DFR is now refocusing its efforts on gays and lesbians. New employees have received LGBT-sensitivity training since 2004. The first batch of veterans are scheduled to take the class in July. By April 5, 2013, all 1,248 employees who have yet to take training will have received it.

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