Horseplay or Violence in the Workplace? Lebanon, TN Firefighters suspended for choke hold after fart

Firehouse.com is sharing a report from the Lebanon Democrat paper in Lebanon, TN, about an incident that has led to at least 2 suspensions of firefighters.

Initial reports indicated that one firefighter, also a mixed martial arts enthusiast, choked another firefighter.  I was on board with the suspensions based on that information.  However, as I learned in my short 2.5 years in Risk Management, the first version is never what really happened.

So here’s what did happen:

Shenanigans.

Let me explain.

One firefighter had a habit of breaking wind near people and walking away.  Reports indicate he is older than 12 regardless of this form of entertainment.

One firefighter was sitting at the computer when the wind breaker attacked, sending fumes towards his coworker and scurrying into the other room.  Witnesses later stated the co-worker, smelling the offensive gift, gave chase, caught the squeaker and put him in a choke hold.  Words were exchanged and at least 1 person took cell phone video of the event.

The attacker was released by his attacker and suffered no injury but did lose consciousness briefly.

Shenanigans.

This is no different than what happens in countless firehouses across the Nation.

However, your personnel manager may see it differently.  Acting Personnel Director Lee Ann Crosslin disagreed with the finding of the Department that this event was horseplay.  She classified it as workplace violence.

Take a deep breath everyone.

The firefighter who got choked stated he was not humiliated, he suffers no health effects as a result and that the action against him was not malicious.

None of that matters to the third party after the fact.

Much like how sexual harassment now includes bystanders who are uncomfortable with something 2 others actually participating are comfortable with, what passes as hore play, or bonding, by one group of people appears violent to another.

And that other has considerable political power in this case.

We don’t have the full story, not until the video is released by someone that is, so my comments below are based on the article linked above.

Lighten the Fuck up.

All of you.

Someone farts in your direction?  Fart back.

Think farting in someone’s direction is funny? Grow up.

If someone says nothing happened we don’t need to assume they’re suffering from some kind of battered wife-like syndrome, protecting their attacker.

It’s the firehouse.  If what happened in this story is to truly be interpreted as workplace violence I need to be arrested and locked up for life.

There is a fine line here, let’s not forget.  What can start as fun can turn dangerous when the recipient calls Uncle or safety gear or equipment is involved.

Don’t put potatoes in their boots, short sheet the bed.  Run a bag of fluid in the ceiling tiles to drip on their pillow all night.  Send them to get the hose stretcher or to spend the night stirring the tanks, but be careful because someone outside our community may think you’re being mean and, well, suspend you. Or worse.

Regardless of my feelings on this case, or yours, you need to read, understand and follow your local rules and regulations regarding horseplay, pranks and personal interactions.

I’m not sure what bothers me more: That this all started with a fart or that so many political offices got involved.

 

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2 thoughts on “Horseplay or Violence in the Workplace? Lebanon, TN Firefighters suspended for choke hold after fart”

  1. Crop dusting…no big deal

    Horseplay…no big deal

    Wrestling…no big deal

    Video recording all of the above…no big deal

    Chokehold until co-worker is unconscious…big deal

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