Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This... May 2019 Issue Number 226

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.
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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

The Price of Trust

A firefighter in Denver discovers a camera hidden in her private dressing and showering area. She reports it to her officer who tries to talk her into waiting to report it further. It turns out he was the one who put the camera there. Later he told a coworker it had been intended as a "prank."

This isn't the first time a camera has been used to invade the privacy of a woman at work. Other women firefighters have endured the same violation. So have women in the military, including a female marine who recently found a recording device in her bathroom on the ship where she is stationed.

For nearly a year between 2013-2014, recording devices were placed in women's private areas aboard the Navy submarine Wyoming. They filmed every woman each time she took a shower during a three-month patrol. The videos were then shared among male crew members. Some men directly filmed the women while some acted as lookouts. Many others stayed silent about what was going on. One man rationalized his silence this way, "I was still somewhat new to the division and so I didn't want to say anything because the higher ranking MTs would always treat the lower ranks like trash and would always try to put them down. So I didn't want to worsen my life more than it already was, so I tried to ignore it and stay out of it for fear of being disowned by the division."

It's a familiar story. People stay silent out of fear or complicity. Leaders don't do their jobs. And those with the least support are the most vulnerable.

Real people suffered real harm from these incidents, and nothing can undo it. But perhaps the largest loss is trust. As one woman, deployed on a different submarine said, "I really do think the submarine community is special; members of your crew become like family. In my experience relationships with members of my crew were founded on trust and mutual respect. This event contradicted what I thought was a universal sense of camaraderie among submariners."

Trust is the currency of leadership. When it is broken, it can take years to restore. And the only way to do that is to fundamentally change the leadership and culture that allowed trust to be broken in the first place.

Sources: Navy Times, December 8, 2015 and The Denver Post, April 4, 2019


News Brief

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide next term whether federal civil rights law that prohibits employment discrimination applies to LGBT people. The court will hear two cases from people who were fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation, as well as a third case from someone who was fired for being transgender. Decisions should be made by Summer 2020.

Source: Associated Press, April 22, 2019


Sexual Harassment Update

Lactation and the Law

The City of Tucson has been ordered to pay $3.8 million dollars to a Tucson fire paramedic after the city failed to provide her with a private place to pump breast milk. The city is considering an appeal to the jury award.

When the firefighter paramedic returned from maternity leave, she requested assignment to a station where she could safely and privately pump breast milk while on duty. Federal law currently requires this accommodation. At the time, around 60% of Tucson fire stations provided this space. However, instead of being assigned to one of these stations, she was put on fill-in status, frequently being assigned to stations where safely expressing breast milk was not possible.

The Affordable Care Act included explicit language related to an employer's obligation to provide appropriate space for the expression of breast milk. In addition, the EEOC has published clear guidelines on the issue.

Can it sometimes be inconvenient to accommodate a lactating firefighter? Perhaps. Is is always possible to do so? Definitely. And it is also the law.

Source: abc15.com April 14, 2019

© Linda F. Willing, 2019