Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
Home | About Us | Services | Clients | Resources | Newsletter| Archives | Contact

Consider This... April 2019 Issue Number 225

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.

I hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
Let me know what you think! If you'd like to subscribe to the newsletter, please enter your email address in the box below.

Sign up for our free newsletter,
Consider This...

enter your email address
Upcoming Events  

The National Volunteer Fire Council Training Conference will take place June 14-15, 2019 in Portland, OR. Linda Willing will be presenting on Saturday, June 15.

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

Power and Shame

A firefighter with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue has filed a lawsuit against the Cities of Las Vegas and Henderson, as well as several high ranking officials with LVFR. The plaintiff claims that the city mishandled her complaint of harassment after a private sex video of her surfaced and was viewed by over a dozen department members. She is asking for $25,000 in back pay from the incident.

The woman filing charges had previously been involved in a consensual, intimate relationship with a firefighter from the Henderson Fire Department. She ended that relationship due to what she described as "obsessive, possessive" behavior on the part of the man. Around six months later, the sex video was shared with members of Las Vegas Fire Rescue.

The affected firefighter immediately filed a complaint with her department. The department's response was to put her on unpaid leave in June while it investigated the complaint. A battalion chief told her in September that some employees were disciplined, but that nothing illegal had occurred and it would take time for the incident "to blow over." It is unclear what if any discipline was ultimately handed down.

So let me get this straight. A woman has an intimate, private video shared with her coworkers by an ex-boyfriend without her permission, and she's the one on unpaid leave? And there are no apparent repercussions for anyone else?

Some might say that this woman is responsible for the outcome since she made the video in the first place. And although she must certainly regret doing so now, such behavior is well within the norms for today's young people and the technology they grew up with. In one university study, nearly half of all people surveyed had sent a naked photo of themselves to someone else.

There is a lot of potential revenge porn out there, but even though naked photos are a gender neutral pursuit, it’s women who are primarily the targets of shaming campaigns around sexting. This is particularly true in professions and environments where women are in a distinct minority. Sharing that video wasn't about sex, it was about power. And it is clear from the events so far where the power lies.

Sources: Las Vegas Now, March 8, 2019 and The New York Times, January 14, 2019


News Brief

A new law went into effect on January 1 in Minnesota that will provide legal protections to first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorders. The new law states that any first responder diagnosed with PTSD will be assumed to have contracted the diagnosis due to their occupation, and will be eligible for worker’s compensation.

Source: KIMT3 January 2, 2019


Sexual Harassment Update

Religious Accommodation

An Atlantic City firefighter has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the department’s chief and deputy chief after learning he would be suspended without pay unless he shaved his beard, which he has grown out for religious reasons. His recent effort to get a temporary restraining order against disciplinary proceedings was unsuccessful but the lawsuit will still move ahead.

Despite what you see on network television, most fire departments have policies that restrict facial hair due to its potential interference with use of SCBA. These policies mostly apply to beards, but can also restrict more prominent mustaches or sideburns. The concern is not only for getting a safe seal on an air mask, but also preventing too-rapid air consumption from poorly fitted positive pressure masks.

The Atlantic City firefighter says that his born-again Christian religion requires him to maintain a beard. Under federal law, employers do have to make accommodation in workplace grooming standards and behavior for religious reasons. However, there are significant exceptions to this need for accommodation. The law says that employers need not suffer an undue hardship for such requests. For example, a firefighter who says that he can never be assigned to work on a particular day of the week due to his religion would not need to be accommodated if the normal scheduling for his position requires availability on any day of the week.

Likewise, health and safety concerns can also override religious accommodation. This is the argument being used by the Atlantic City Fire Department, and it is a position that has most often prevailed in the past. In denying the temporary restraining order, the federal judge ruled that there is insufficient likelihood that the firefighter will prevail on the merits of any of his claims despite the fact that that he is currently assigned to a position that does not require regular use of an SCBA.

Source: nj.com March 7, 2019 and firelawblog.com March 22, 2019

© Linda F. Willing, 2019