March/April 2002 Issue Number 33
a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues
to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers.
Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity,
change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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West: April 28-May 2 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Call
888-299-8016 for more information.
Conference of Women in Policing: April 30- May 4, Washington DC.
for more details.
and Command School presented by Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute,
May 1-8 at the Adams Mark Hotel, Dallas, TX. Linda Willing will be
on the faculty for this program. Go to www.mfri.org
for more information about the course.
Promotion Problems: Reversing the Trend
month this column discussed an emerging trend in the fire service:
declining numbers of qualified candidates testing for certain promotional
positions. In particular, the ranks of paramedic and battalion chief
have seen fewer people interested in the positions in recent years.
reasons for this trend are varied and may differ depending on the
organization being studied. However, one reason seems to fit for every
organization. More and more, people say that promoting to certain
positions "just isn't worth it."
would qualified people feel that a promotion, which includes both
new challenges and a pay increase, is not worth the trouble? Here
are some specific reasons people give for shunning promotional opportunity.
the rank of paramedic, people say:
the rank of battalion chief, people say:
- I don't
want to lose my union protection by entering management.
chiefs don't have real power; they just run errands for the upper level
- I don't
want to take a test every year for a position that may only be open
once every ten years.
chiefs have no allies; they're stuck in the middle of any dispute.
- The job
doesn't pay enough for the additional hassles.
a department do to mitigate these concerns and encourage its best and
brightest to promote through the ranks? Providing incentives is important,
but they have to be the right incentives. Just paying more may not be
enough. Departments must look deeper at the underlying issues. Here are
a few suggestions of places to start:
- Hire the
right people to begin with. If you need paramedics, make sure you hire
people who are prepared to fill this role, both through their training,
and in their expectation of what the job will entail.
- Work on
creating an inclusive, supportive organizational culture. If people
feel like second class citizens, find out why and work to mitigate those
- Make sure
everyone has access to allies. Isolation goes against basic fire department
culture, and will almost certainly lead to early attrition, at any rank.
Mentoring programs can help with this.
achievement. Let top performers take credit for their work. Let people
know in a genuine way that you appreciate their contribution.
- Give people
meaningful work assignments. Rotate less interesting assignments.
- Let people
exercise their power. Battalion chiefs in particular must feel that
they have the ability to make decisions without constantly being second-guessed.
training opportunities, both internally and externally. Make sure people
feel ready for the promotional opportunity. Access to external opportunities
for professional development (conferences, seminars, etc.) can be a
career counseling and alternate career paths. This is obviously easier
to do on a larger department, where paramedics might be able to work
a few years on the ambulance and then rotate back to an engine company,
or battalion chiefs can rotate through different divisions. But even
smaller departments can find creative ways so that people don't feel
stuck where they are.
All of the
above suggestions will help create an environment where promotion is desirable
and sought by the best people on the department. Implementing these measures
takes time, money, and commitment, but the payoff from the investment
will be more than worth it.
discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC increased by 1.2% last
year, the highest level in six years. Discrimination allegations based
on age and disability had the highest rate of increase.
discrimination complaints accounted for 21.5% of all allegations,
and disability cases made up 20.4% of the total. Race discrimination
complaints accounted for 35.8% of the total and sex discrimination
cases were 31.1% of all claims filed. Some cases alleged more than
one type of discrimination.
Associated Press, February 22, 2002.
Harassment: How Much is Enough?
much inappropriate behavior is needed to justify a complaint of sexual
harassment? Most courts agree that a single incident of low level
behavior, such as a crude remark, is not enough to create a hostile
work environment. The standard changes when the behavior is physical?
inappropriate touching or assault. But even in this realm, the courts
have said that a single incident, unless extremely serious, is not
enough to create a harassing environment (see Archives: November/December
issue of Consider This).
the case Brooks v. City of San Mateo, a single incident of a co-worker
touching a woman's breast proved inadequate to support sexual harassment
charges against the employer, even though the perpetrator was fired
and ultimately served jail time for the assault. However, a recent
7th Circuit decision takes a different point of view. In Worth v.
Tyer, the court upheld Ms. Worth's Title VII claim of sexual harassment
after a similar incident where Mr. Tyer touched her breast. What was
the difference between these two cases? Three significant factors
stand out. First, Mr. Tyer was clearly Ms. Worth's supervisor and
an agent of his employer. Second, Ms. Worth was fired shortly after
she made a police report about the incident, an action that supports
her claim of retaliation. Third, Mr. Tyer touched Ms. Worth inappropriately
on two different occasions.
court stated, "There is no minimum number of incidents required to
establish a hostile work environment. Harassment need not be both
severe and pervasive to impose liability; one or the other will do.
Indeed, we have often recognized that even one act of harassment will
suffice if it is egregious. Conduct that involves touching as opposed
to verbal behavior increases the severity of the situation. We have
previously recognized that direct contact with an intimate body part
constitutes one of the most severe forms of sexual harassment."
harassment is not alike. The courts take a much harder line when harassment
involves unwanted physical contact, and may impose liability on employers
if supervisors engage in this type of behavior even once.
Worth v. Tyer, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Linda F. Willing, 2002