Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Politics

Tampa firefighter Tanja Vidovic won her job back in court. Now she could face new disciplinary action

TAMPA ó It took a legal battle lasting more than two years for Tanja Vidovic to return to her job as a Tampa firefighter in early April. But after only three months back at Tampa Fire Rescue, her future at the department is in doubt again.

Vidovic, who won a federal discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the department in December, is now accused of being untruthful and creating a hostile work environment, her husband Jared Vidovic told the Tampa Bay Times.

On Wednesday morning, at the start of a closed hearing into the charges, Jared Vidovic and the coupleís three young children gathered with a handful of friends outside Tampa Fire Rescueís downtown headquarters carrying signs showing support for the firefighter.

City officials declined to comment on the nature of the charges against Vidovic. An investigative hearing was conducted, where department officials "ask questions and obtain answers," said human resources director Kimberly Crum.

"If they find her to be untruthful at that table they could fire her today," Jared Vidovic said. "Thatís my understanding because thatís the way it happened last time."

But by the end of the day, she was told she could return to work at her station. The investigation is continuing, her husband said, but she was given no indication of when it will conclude.

During a mid-day break in the hearing, Vidovic emerged from Tampa Fire Rescue with labor lawyer Ryan Barack, wiping away tears as she hugged her family.

She declined to answer reportersí questions, saying the department has placed her under a gag order until the investigation is closed.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Buckhorn urged to name woman as fire chief in wake of discrimination suit

In December, after a four-week trial, a jury awarded Vidovic $245,000 in damages, deciding she had proved two allegations in a federal lawsuit she filed against the city of Tampa: That she was discriminated against because she was pregnant and that the city retaliated against her when she complained.

She had been fired from Tampa Fire Rescue in March 2016, the day after she filed the federal lawsuit.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Federal judge orders Tampa to give firefighter her job back

Vidovic also filed a complaint in 2015 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging in part that three captains asked her for sex and that the city retaliated against her after she complained about issues including the lack of female bathrooms at most station houses.

In February, a federal judge ordered the city to return Vidovic to her job.

But ever since she went back to work in April, Jared Vidovic said, officials have "continued without reason to write her up."

"It became obvious that she was targeted," he said. "Thereís just a separate set of rules than there are for other people."

In April, a womenís Facebook group with 15,200 members called Surly Feminists for the Revolution urged Mayor Bob Buckhorn to choose a woman as he considered naming a replacement for retiring fire chief Tom Forward. Vidovic told the Times she, too, hoped a woman would be appointed.

The Facebook group cast the decision as a referendum on the discrimination and retaliation case brought by Vidovic.

Buckhorn named 32-year veteran Nick LoCicero as chief.

No matter the outcome of the investigation, Jared Vidovic said heís proud of his wifeís fight to keep a job she loves.

Tanja Vidovic had worked in sales when the couple moved to Tampa 12 years ago. Her husband enrolled in the University of South Floridaís nursing program, and as he continued to pursue his career, his wife wanted to find a job with meaning and purpose, too, he said.

This year marks 10 years since Tampa Fire Rescue first hired Tanja Vidovic. Even now, Jared Vidovic said, his wife comes home from work happy, eager to share stories of how she helped people.

"I was hoping Tanja would come out and say, ĎEverythingís good, you can all go home,í but weíve been here before and we wonít give up now," said Jared Vidovic, now a registered nurse at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

"Tanya has a lot of passions and has always fought for what she believes in, and she believes that everybody should have those rights to work in a job they love. ... For her, itís still worth it."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] Follow @adawsonwrites

 
Comments
Florida officials flag a possible violation of elections law by state Democrats

Florida officials flag a possible violation of elections law by state Democrats

The forms listed the wrong due date for voters to fix issues with their mail-in ballots.
Updated: 1 hour ago
PolitiFact: Donald Trump and Rick Scott allege fraud in vote counting without any evidence

PolitiFact: Donald Trump and Rick Scott allege fraud in vote counting without any evidence

Both Scott and Trump have cast suspicion about the rising number of votes in the days following election night.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Joe Henderson: Hillsborough voters charted a reasonable path forward with school tax approval

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough voters charted a reasonable path forward with school tax approval

Voters agreed that excellent schools and a decent transportation system are vital to this community.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rick Scott will recuse himself from certifying the results of his own election

Rick Scott will recuse himself from certifying the results of his own election

Scott had been quiet about whether he would step down from the Elections Canvassing Commission.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Judge Mark Walker is at the center of Florida recount legal fight

Judge Mark Walker is at the center of Florida recount legal fight

Several federal lawsuits are assigned to the federal judge.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Clearwater strong mayor fight is over but rift on City Council remains an open wound

Clearwater strong mayor fight is over but rift on City Council remains an open wound

Hoyt Hamilton asks for apology from Doreen Caudell for her words in Letter to the Editor. She apologizes but claims she was misquoted in her own letter.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Palm Beach Countyís voting machines overheat and force recount of more than 170,000 votes

Palm Beach Countyís voting machines overheat and force recount of more than 170,000 votes

The department has flown in mechanics to repair the machines.
Updated: 3 hours ago
What happens if elections chiefs canít make recount deadline? State says keep counting.

What happens if elections chiefs canít make recount deadline? State says keep counting.

What happens if Florida elections offices fail to meet Thursday's looming deadline for a machine recount of ballots in the state's tightly contested races?Keep counting, says Florida's secretary of state.A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzn...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A machine canít decide voter intent. In a manual recount, people must

A machine canít decide voter intent. In a manual recount, people must

Undervotes and overvotes in two statewide elections will test Florida's post-recount voting standards.
Updated: 4 hours ago
The Daystarter: A whole lot of suing going on in the Florida recount; why Rick Scott and Bill Nelson are smack in the middle; a Hall of Fame kind of night for Martin St. Louis

The Daystarter: A whole lot of suing going on in the Florida recount; why Rick Scott and Bill Nelson are smack in the middle; a Hall of Fame kind of night for Martin St. Louis

The Daystarter: Marc Topkin on Rays’ manager Kevin Cash falling short of the top AL manager award; Graham Brink on why Amazon just isn’t that into Tampa Bay; and Tom Jones on why the Bucs are keeping Jameis Winston on the bench.
Updated: 8 hours ago