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...November 2013 Issue Number 160

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.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Upcoming Events  

IAFF Human Relations Conference January 28-30, 2014 in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Linda Willing will be presenting "If Diversity=Problems, What is the Solution?" on Thursday, January 30. Go to www.iaff.org for more information.

International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services Conference February 26-28, 2014 Tucson, AZ. Go to www.i-women.org for more information.

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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 here.

Rethinking Recruitment: Notes from a day-long workshop held in Keystone, CO in November 2012.

 

In the News

Kids These Days

What is the biggest diversity challenge facing organizations today? Race or gender? Ethnicity? Religious differences or sexual orientation? All of these characteristics present challenges in the workplace. But more and more, leaders in emergency services, business, and other types of organizations consistently cite one issue that they struggle with. Kids these days. They're not like us and we're not really sure what to do about it.

Generational differences are nothing new, but changes in technology, expectations, and life style have accelerated in recent years, creating more points of potential conflict. Too often, veteran workers and leaders assume that these differences only lead to problems instead of opportunities.

The youngest generation at work, the so-called Millennials, are characterized by their fluency with technology and their high expectations. They expect to be paid well, to be able to seamlessly combine work and family life, and to move up quickly. They are impatient with traditional hierarchies and the concept of paying their dues.

Older workers and managers often perceive younger workers to be disrespectful of tradition and possessing a poor work ethic. The word "entitled" may be used in describing them.

Many Millennials expect to change jobs often in their careers. In some fields it is common for younger workers to change jobs on average every three years, as they seek out new opportunities.

Even in professions like the emergency services where workers tend to stay with one employer for a career, younger workers are more likely to move on when new opportunities appear. This mobility can be an asset in the ability to adapt to new circumstances, but may also be perceived as lack of commitment.

Millennials often have tremendous technical skills and feel comfortable in that environment. However, dependence on more virtual communication through texting and social media may lead to less well developed skills in face-to-face communication and conflict resolution.

Millennials appreciate and demand feedback from coworkers and supervisors, and often complain about the low frequency or usefulness of feedback they get. Older supervisors may see that need for feedback as being demanding or self-centered.

Regardless of differences, the fact is that within 15 years, 75% of the workforce will be made up of those from the Millennial generation. It is critical that current leaders recognize the strengths and potential that these youngest workers bring, as well as working to share the insight and knowledge that have come with experience.

Source: The Miami Herald, September 10, 2013

 

News Brief

New Jersey last month became the 14th state to legalize same sex marriage. Hawaii is currently considering legislation to do so as well.

Source: USA Today October 20, 2013

 

Sexual Harassment Update

Light Duty and Pregnancy

Another pregnant firefighter, this time in Bridgeport, CT, has been denied light duty and put on unpaid leave. Regina Scates, a six year veteran of the fire department, was advised by her doctor to go on light duty soon after her pregnancy was confirmed. Ms. Scates was placed on light duty for 90 days, but at the end of that period, was forced onto unpaid leave. The rationale for this action was that light duty for non-work issues is limited to 90 days.

A similar policy is in place in Washington DC. In 2011, that fire chief defended the policy by stating that the provision of additional benefits only for pregnancy could make the department vulnerable to lawsuits.

This logic ignores the specific intention of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as clarified by the US Supreme Court over 20 years ago. In that decision, the court stated that the intention of the law was to be a "floor beneath which benefits could not drop, not a ceiling above which they could not rise." Therefore, while organizations are not obligated to provide additional benefits for pregnancy, they may do so without legal risk from those who might need light duty for other reasons.

Denying light duty for pregnancy puts pregnant firefighters in a lose-lose position. They must either continue to work on the line, accepting risk to themselves or their fetuses, or they must live without pay for an extended period of time. In the case of Ms. Scates, her light duty ended in August, but her baby is not due until December.

Subsequent to publicity about her case, Ms. Scates was returned to paid status but questions remain about how her case was handled. According to former mayor and attorney Thomas Bucci, "I'm sure she's not the first pregnant firefighter the city has had to deal with. Obviously, people at the supervisory level need training on gender related issues."

Sources: www.ctpost.com September 9 and 26, 2013; California Federal Savings and Loan Association v. Guerra US Supreme Court No. 85-494

 

 

© Linda F. Willing, 2013

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