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Former firefighter headlining Sexual Harassment Forum in Tampa

Forum hosted by Rep. Kathy Castor
Posted at 1:13 PM, Feb 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-12 18:48:12-05

TAMPA, Fla. -- "When there's harassment going on, step in, don't ignore it," says Tanja Vidovic, who recently won a lawsuit against the Tampa Fire Rescue for discrimination.

Vidovic is now sharing that message and her story at a forum on Tuesday entitled "Stop Sexual Harassment" in hopes that it will inspire Tampa Bay Area employers to implement better policies to protect their employees.

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The forum is being held in the Student Services Building of the Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus from 10 a.m. until noon on Tuesday, February 13, and is completely open and free to the general public.

The forum aims to help teach employees and students about their rights, but also teach small business owners about their responsibilities.

A representative of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be at the event to speak and answer questions, as will members of the Centre for Women, the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, legal attorney experts, and victims like Vidovic.

"A lot of small businesses don't have the policies and this is their opportunity to come and ask questions," says Vidovic. 

The event is being hosted by Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa, who wants to stress to employers that they are also helping themselves when they create standards to protect their employees.

"If they are found liable for harassment in their organization they are on the hook for very significant damages," Rep. Castor of Tampa tells ABC Action News. 

"It's in the [employers] interest to do the kind of training and vetting of employees and supervisors so they are not left on the hook," adds Rep. Castor.

In the case of Vidovic, Tampa Fire Rescue is now on the hook for about $245,000 in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late last year a jury ruled that TFR discriminated against Vidovic for being pregnant, and later fired her in retaliation when she went to management about the discrimination. 

Vidovic also spoke of several instances of sexual harassment from her immediate supervisors, and felt TFR did not respond to her concerns appropriately.

"So people are afraid to speak up because the retaliation might happen, the harassment might get worse," says Vidovic to ABC Action News.

Creating sound policies informed by the forum on Tuesday could help local businesses avoid the situation TFR now finds itself in.