Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
80447
970-531-2388
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Consider This... April 2018 Issue Number 213

Is 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.

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Upcoming Events  

The Conference of International Women in Fire and Emergency Services will be held in Fairfax County, VA May 24-26, 2018.

Fire-Rescue International will take place August 8-11, 2018 in Dallas, TX.

Now available! On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.

 

In the News

Women Get Pregnant. Deal With It.

Pregnant firefighters have been in the news lately. On two different departments in Florida, women continued working as operational firefighters long into their pregnancies. In one case, a woman was more than 7 months pregnant and still working on the line.

I don't know anyone who thinks this is a good idea, especially the women themselves. Yet in both cases, the media reported these women as "choosing" to work in this capacity while pregnant.

What was not so clearly reported in both instances was that both women asked for non-hazardous duty assignments during their pregnancies and were refused.

The departments involved had various reasons why these women could not have a modified assignment. The contract did not allow such assignments for anyone. The chief denied a request for shift trades. It cost too much. It was too much trouble. And so forth.

Some fire departments have done a great job developing fair and workable plans to accommodate the pregnant firefighter. But many have not. And the process of developing a standard of response in this area has taken far too long. On my own department, it took 18 years before we finally had a good policy in place. Eighteen years of starting and stopping and being frustrated in the effort. In those years, women quit the job if they wanted to start a family. And that was the most common outcome with most fire departments.

The majority of women will get pregnant at some point in their lives. If fire departments truly want to recruit and retain female members, then they must develop good policies to deal with pregnancy, policies that provide meaningful and safe alternate work assignments for women. Not doing so sends a clear message that women are not truly valued and included equally in the workplace.

 

News Brief

Vickie Christensen, a woman who has served as a wildland firefighter and worked in forestry for over 30 years, has been chosen as the interim chief of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of more than 35,000 employees. Her appointment comes in the wake of a number of reports of harassment and discrimination within the agency. She was selected after former Chief Tony Tooke abruptly retired following revelations of an investigation into alleged relationships with subordinates.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, March 9, 2018

 

Sexual Harassment Update

Inside Information

Four Virginia Beach firefighters who were denied promotions last year are suing the city, claiming that results of an annual captain’s exam were tainted when a battalion chief gave confidential test information to two firefighters. The lawsuit is not asking for monetary compensation, but asks that results of the promotion process be thrown out and the procedure be redone.

As a result of a departmental investigation, it was revealed that a battalion chief, who also served as an assessor during the exam, had provided inside information about the exam to at least one candidate. That investigation resulted in the demotion of both the battalion chief and the newly promoted captain. However, it was later discovered that a second candidate had also received the information and been promoted as a result. He continues to hold the rank of captain on the department.

This is not the only recent high-profile case of an ethics breach when it comes to fire department testing. A common theme in these cases is that some candidates have an edge in the process due to who they know. They have access to information about the testing process and in some cases, actual questions or scenarios that will be used.

Some organizations take the attitude that information only adds to good preparation, and they are quite open about what a test will look like. Candidates can then study exactly what the test will include, and everyone can have equal access to that information.

In the Virginia Beach case, the test included a tactical scenario that candidates had to talk through. It was widely known that these scenarios always included a "curve ball." This was the key information given to the two candidates, who scored 95 and 100 on that part of the test. The lawsuit claims that the 100% score was a first for the department.

Testing processes should be designed to identify the best candidates for a particular job, giving all competitors a level playing field. If information is provided to some, it must be provided to all. When that is not the case, the result is the current situation in Virginia Beach, where the union president said, "The ramifications from this will last for years. It still affects morale to this day, and it’s still the number one topic of conversation at all the firehouses."

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, March 26, 2018

 

 

© Linda F. Willing, 2018