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Former Tampa firefighter awarded damages for discrimination

Jury: Tanja Vidovic was fired for being pregnant
Posted at 5:50 PM, Dec 08, 2017

TAMPA — A jury sided with a former Tampa Fire Department employee who claims she was discriminated against because she was pregnant.

"If you speak up about harassment or retaliation or anything you're seen as the problem," Tanja Vidovic told ABC Action News after the trial.

Vidovic believes her interest in an improved workplace experience was part of the reason she was fired from her beloved job as a paramedic and firefighter for the City of Tampa.

She loved being able to help people when they were dealing with a great challenge, and felt she could make a big impact in her community.

But the job, she says, came with some serious problems, including repeated sexual harassment.

"It was everything from Captains requesting sex, all the way to people putting meat in my food knowing I'm a vegetarian, to failing evaluations citing that I'm pregnant," says Vidovic. "Citing the reason they're failing me is because I'm pregnant." 

The review forms, signed by Fire Chief Thomas Forward, were used as evidence against the Department in her winning lawsuit.

"I got there early and worked hard and was strong and capable and smart and it didn't matter. They already had that perspective that if I'm speaking up at all it was a negative thing," adds Vidovic, who now lives in Safety Harbor with her husband and three daughters.

Yesterday in U.S. District court, a jury agreed that Vidovic, who was hired in 2008, was fired in 2016 just for complaining about discrimination, and discriminated against for being pregnant.

She was awarded $245,000 in damages. She says much of that will go towards legal fees and taxes and lost income.

She didn't expect to get fired when she started her lawsuit -- but hopes it will inspire some still much-needed changes.

"In order to shed light on harassment in all aspects of life you have to be able to bring it to light," Vidovic says. "And it's painful for the people who have to do it. But in order for it to change it needs to happen."

The Tampa Fire Department wouldn't comment on the case. 

They have a month to appeal the decision.