Saint-Jean fire inspector says she was the victim of workplace harassment

ST-JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU – Nathalie Michaud was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her doctors told her it was sparked by psychological harassment by a male co-worker.

“I’m super, super strong and yet that ended up almost destroying me mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Michaud from her home on the south shore.

The 41-year old is currently on sick leave from the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu Fire Department, where she works as a fire inspector.

She’s hoping her fire chief will follow Montreal’s lead and adopt new measures to help fight harassment in the workplace.

Michaud broke her silence and spoke to Global News a year and a half ago.

She was battling depression and had contemplated suicide after her husband had taken his own life on Dec. 30, 2010.

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Richard Stringer was the fire chief in Otterburn Park and Michaud says he too had been a target of harassment.

“It changes who you are, it really does, depending on how much it affects you and the depth of how much you’ve been harassed,” she said.

“For me, it really shook me to the core, sadly.”

The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu Fire Department declined Global News’ request for an interview about Michaud’s case and there’s no word on what, if anything, has been done to change the work climate since Michaud’s incident.

The Montreal Fire Department is taking concrete steps to put a stop to harassment after two female firefighters recently spoke out anonymously.

“It was quite surprising to find out that there were major issues,” said Richard Liebmann from the Montreal Fire Department, who admits harassment in the firefighting world is a reality.

“We’ve had cases where there are people that have been intimidated in the work place. In the past there have been hazing rituals for rookies, which we have eliminated and want to see eliminated, so we’re working really hard to make sure everybody understands what is tolerable and what is not.”

Michaud has also learned that speaking out about harassment comes with a cost.

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“I’m stuck with a stigma because yes we did do a story about it and it was everywhere in the fire world that I had spoken up,” deplored Michaud.

Still, the 41-year-old has high hopes that her future with the St-Jean Fire Department will be brighter.

The employee in question has since left and she hopes her employer will follow Montreal’s lead and offer more training and tools to tackle harassment.

But she’s also realistic.

“I discovered while I was in therapy for PTSD that it’s just as bad in police, military and pretty much everywhere.”

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