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LAFD: Diversity Ignites Discrimination

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Diversification and the Problem
Analysis of the Problem

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LAFD: Diversity Ignites Discrimination

  1. 1. Erhan Sozen 1 CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, LOS ANGELES DR. MCGUIRE October 29, 2012 Erhan Sozen LAFD: Diversity Ignites Discrimination
  2. 2. Erhan Sozen 2 Diversification and the Problem As time passed by, LAFD has changed its ethnic and gender structure. Before 1974, black people have not been treated equally in the organization. However, the federal government found the city of Los Angeles guilty for discriminating Blacks, Latinos, and Asians. After 1974, in order to strengthen diversity and prevent discrimination, a Minority Recruitment Unit and Affirmative Action Program has been placed in the organization. Thus, LAFD primarily aimed to recruit minorities and females. With the diversity in the LAFD, so many problems have been occurred within the organization because of the discrimination and hazing against women and African- Americans. LAFD suffered from hazing, which was long-held tradition and can be defined as “horseplay.” Many lawsuits have been filed because of hazing in LAFD. In this case, a hazing victim, Tennie Pierce, sued the city after he has been exposed to a horseplay from his colleague, Arevalo. It was resulted in city to pay $1.43 to Tennie Pierce. The other incident in this case is that gender discrimination happened to female firefighter, Melissa Kelley. In her rookie years, she has been harassed by a male firefighter. She remained silent not to be complainer. After that, she was injured in a drill called “The Humiliator.” She was pinned under the ladder and her Captain, Frank Lima, stopped her colleague not to help her, which ended withserious injury. Basically, the main problem in this case is that LAFD was not able to provide workplace for minorities and females where discrimination and hazing were not existed. As it is stated by Laura Chick, the City Controller, “Weak leadership and a broken disciplinary system encouraged harassment and hazing.” It is also essential not to forget lawsuits as a result of discrimination and hazing, which cause million of taxpayer dollars. Analysis of the Problem LAFD strived for recruiting minorities and females to create diversity. From 1980 to 2006, African-American, Hispanic and Asian firefighters increased by 5%, 14% and
  3. 3. Erhan Sozen 3 2.2%, respectively. These numbers show that LAFD could not be able to achieve diversity successfully. Although it is stated LAFD` s mission in the case that LAFD is located in a “melting pot,” LAFD could not show sufficient responsibility to its external environment and create a solid organizational culture around minorities. Thus, lack of discipline and respect led hazing and discrimination to be active in the LAFD. Every organization has an informal culture that is an “atmosphere” in short words, which reflects traditions, habits and folklores. Firefighters considered that horseplay and pranks are long-held traditions of the LAFD. However, it is not expected for hazing and discrimination victims to take it and remain silent. Hence, according to the Article 23 in United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” It means that LAFD had to provide fair and appropriate working conditions to firefighters.Authorities in LAFD should have taken precautions and imposed sanctions for hazing and discrimination activities in order to save the reputation and to stay as a good organization in the eyes of potential firefighters. Female workers sometimes experience harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. LAFD was an organization where almost all female firefighters has experienced unwanted touching, leering or derogatory comments according to female Captain I Alicia Mathis. She tried to stop unfair and implausible working conditions that were expected from female firefighters to work with and she filed a claim at last. As it is obviously seen the graphic in the case, only 2.6% of firefighters are female in 2008. Apparently, the reason is that many female either were discouraged of Candidate Physical Test or previous incidents against females in LAFD although LAFD spent costly marketing strategies to recruit female firefighters. To increase the number of female firefighters, LAFD should have trained male firefighters how to work with female and treat them in the workplace because male firefighters have never been used to work with female before and some of them might still have thought that women are not part of workforce.
  4. 4. Erhan Sozen 4 Conclusion LAFD operates in an area where many people from different ethnicity live. The culture of the LAFD should have been built within the accepted diversity and respect among firefighters. In addition, disciplinary actions should have been taken and anti-discrimination trainings could have been held to support this culture in the first place. Even though it is a late decision, the city mayor declared a new policy of zero tolerance against hazing in all city departments. This is what LAFD needed in terms of creating socially and professionally proper workplace. References: Gill, David W. It`s About Excellence . 1st ed. Utah: Executive Excellence Publishing, 2008. 121-124. Print.