A FORMER firefighter, once named one of the country’s best trainees, claims she was forced out of her job by bullying and discrimination.
Lynn Bell has launched legal action against the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and, if successful, could be awarded up to £400,000 compensation.
Ms Bell – Strathclyde Fire Service’s Trainee of the Year in 2011 – who went on to become a crew manager at Cumbernauld fire station in Lanarkshire, says bosses failed to act to protect her when she complained of being bullied.
The mother-of-three, who now heads up a charity that works with vulnerable adults and children, quit her crew manager job six months ago.
Documents show how Ms Bell pursued her complaints about a colleague’s allegedly intimidatory behaviour to the top of the service.
But she claims senior officers, including Chief Officer Alasdair Hay, failed to act.
A friend of Ms Bell, 41, said she was distraught to leave the service after landing her dream job in 2009.
The allegations claim she was bullied by another firefighter who was physically threatening towards her after learning she had set up a charity, Love Learning Scotland.
The Lanarkshire-based organisation, founded in 2014, supports some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and young people, particularly in regards to their mental health.
But a Glasgow employment tribunal, expected to start later this year, will hear claims her experience at work damanged her mental health.
A source said: “Lynn is devastated she’s had to leave. She’d always dreamed of getting in the fire service but was rejected because she was too small.
“She got her chance when they relaxed height restrictions.
“She was made crew manager in 2016, which is a senior role.
“But she was a woman in a man’s world and I think that put a few people’s noses out of joint.
“There was only two women at the whole station.
“Culturally, the fire service is so far behind society. It’s a very macho world.
“The last few years have been hell for Lynn. And she’s not alone.
“Other female firefighters have encountered similar issues.
“Lynn was bullied because she ran a charity. It’s a joke – almost everyone in the fire service has second jobs.
“But one guy in particular took umbrage because it was a charity and made all sorts of outlandish accusations.
“She’s passionate about helping folk, so where is the harm?”
An internal complaint claims a fellow officer picked on her and that women across the service were bullied because of their gender.
It also claims he put her in fear of her safety.
Ms Bell has told senior management that she was repeatedly the target of aggressive behaviour by the officer.
Her complaint details other alleged incidents involving the officer. One on occasion, he is said to have thrown a plate of chicken at a colleague who he claimed had not cooked it properly.
He also reportedly would begin punching lockers if his colleagues snored during night shifts.
The complaint claims Ms Bell requested the officer be moved so they no longer worked together but the service refused.
Instead – her complaint claims – her colleague was sent on anger management courses to tackle his behaviour.
Ms Bell, whose complaint says she was left extremely anxious by a spate of incidents, also claimed she was targeted after getting special leave in the aftermath of her 35-year-old brother-in-law’s death in Tenerife.
Ms Bell’s complaint says she was frequently left in tears and “extremely anxious.”
The complaint also says Ms Bell resorted to hiding in female changing rooms and the office to avoid confrontation.
Additionally, she says she was the subject of repeated complaints about her own conduct.
One saw her disciplined for not wearing a high-vis jacket on the motorway during a rescue.
At the start of 2017, she was moved to another shift at the same station but says her former colleague continued to harass her.
Ms Bell raised a formal complaint soon afterwards claiming she’d been left feeling “helpless”.
Her complaint said: “I have never wanted to raise this formally, but I now cannot get away from what feels like his hatred for me.
“I have gone to another watch and feel I have been more than accommodating to this situation.
“I am worried it is escalating and will end in an act of violence.
“Within the last 12 months, [he] constantly undermines me, acts aggressively, ignores me and has me on constant edge.
“I feel he has waged a war on the fact that I have started a charity, and he continually states I have special treatment.
“His behaviour is constant and fixated. I feel threatened and intimidated, even when I have moved watch, he spreads stories about me and I feel is trying to ruin my reputation and career.
“I am worried for my safety and that of my family.”
After the investigation started, Ms Bell was asked to move to nearby Coatbridge fire station in October 2017 but refused.
After being signed off with stress she resigned the following February.
Her lawyers have suggested that, if successful, her constructive dismissal claim could secure £400,000 compensation for psychological damage, sexual discrimination and future loss of earnings.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service refused to disclose how many female firefighters it currently employs and declined to comment on Ms Bell’s case.
A statement said: “Due to ongoing legal considerations, we are unable to comment at this stage.”
We contacted Ms Bell last week at her Airdrie home but she did not want to discuss the case.
She said: “This has been a personal nightmare.”
Source describes tribunal allegations