June/July 2002 Issue Number 36
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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International August 23-26, 2002. Kansas City, MO.
Annual Women Chief Fire Officers Fire Service Leadership Conference
November 8-10, 2002 at Motorola University, Schaumburg, Illinois.
Call 630-990-2390 or email email@example.com
for more information.
International Conference of Fire Service Women April 23-27, 2003.
Denver, CO. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
Disabled Firefighters? Its No Joke
fire departments started modifying stations to meet requirements of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most firefighters saw it
as a bad joke. "Oh right," they complained. "Like well
be hiring firefighters in wheelchairs now." Although the likelihood
of a fire suppression recruit in a wheelchair is remote, the fact
is that some people with legal disabilities will want to become emergency
responders. And you had better not arbitrarily exclude them from consideration.
the case of Kelly Gillen, a woman who was born with a deformed arm
and only one fully functional hand. Ms. Gillens ultimate dream
was to become a doctor, and toward this goal she took and passed the
Massachusetts EMT course. Despite her disability, she was able to
do everything required of her in the course.
receiving her EMT certification, Ms. Gillen applied for work with
the Fallon Ambulance Service. She was offered employment conditional
on a physical exam, but was subsequently turned down for employment
even before a doctor examined her. The reason that was given was that
ambulance work required doing two-handed lifts, and Ms. Fallons
disability automatically disqualified her.
Gillen went on to gain employment with AMR Ambulance Service and the
Boston Emergency Medical Service, where she performed successfully
without special accommodation. Prior to being hired by AMR, Ms. Gillen
was able to demonstrate her ability to lift up to 90 lbs. which was
more than the 70 lbs. lifting requirement established by Fallon.
Gillen sued for discrimination under the ADA, and although the lower
court granted summary judgment to Fallon, this decision was reversed
on appeal. The appeals court pointed out that Fallon did not routinely
test anyone for lifting ability prior to hiring its referral
for such a test for Ms. Gillen would have been a first. The court
said that Fallons requirement for doing a two-handed lift was
based on how EMT work is traditionally done but did not prove conclusively
that two hands are required to perform the task.
ADA prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes about a disability
but does not prohibit decision making based on the actual attributes
of the disability. In other words, you cannot assume that someone
is unable to lift a stretcher because he or she has only one hand.
You have to give that person the opportunity to prove their ability.
However, if someone cannot lift because of being one-handed, then
it is legal to refuse to hire that person.
purpose of the ADA is to give people with disabilities equal access
to the workplace. The law does not require that every disabled person
be hired for every job. But if someone with a disability wants to
try for a job, even firefighting, the law says you must give them
equal opportunity to prove their merit and qualification for the position.
Gillen v. Fallon Ambulance Service, 1st Circuit Court of Appeals,