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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... October 2019 Issue Number 231

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  

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.

Fire-Rescue International will take place in Phoenix, AZ August 19-21, 2020.

Women in Fire will hold an international conference in Spokane, WA September 23-26, 2020.

 

In the News

Yes, You Can Still be Fired for Being Gay

With same-sex marriage now legal across the entire United States, it might shock some people to realize that under federal law, an employer can still fire a worker simply because that person is gay. Employment protection for sexual orientation has never been part of federal civil rights law, although it is a protection in many states and local jurisdictions, as well as for federal workers. Still, even as support for LGBTQ rights has increased dramatically, there are 28 states with no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

As some people commented when same-sex marriage became law: You can get married at 10 am, post your wedding pictures to Facebook at noon, and be fired from your job at 2. And it may all be legal.

Two cases will be dealing with this paradox in the upcoming US Supreme Court session. The first case involves a man who worked for ten years developing government social programs in Georgia, who was then fired from his position after he joined a gay softball team. The county cited "conduct unbecoming a county employee" as the reason for his firing.

The second case involved a man who worked for a commercial skydiving company and who responded to a woman's concerns about being harnessed to him during a tandem jump by joking, "Don't worry, I'm 100% gay." He was fired soon after. The man later died in a skydiving accident; his family is continuing to pursue the case.

I still remember a time not that long ago when fire departments could ask candidates if they were gay on lie detector tests or elsewhere in the hiring process, and refuse to hire them if they said yes. Many good prospective firefighters were lost in this way.

No one is predicting how the current court will respond to these cases. A proponent of gay rights on the court, Anthony Kennedy, recently retired and was replaced by Brett Kavanaugh.

Source: The New York Times, September 23, 2019

 

News Brief

The City of Pittsburgh has hired a consulting firm to assist with diversity hiring. The fire bureau consists of 670 employees of which 99% are male and 90% are white. According to Janet Manuel, Pittsburgh’s director of human resources, the problem is that women and minorities have not been interested in applying for jobs as firefighters.

Source: The Tribune-Review, September 25, 2019

 

Sexual Harassment Update

Consider What is Normal

A firefighter in Saginaw, Michigan has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer, citing a pattern of offensive language and behavior directed at her, as well as disparate treatment and retaliation. Among a number of allegations was this one: "In late 2016, Plaintiff told a male firefighter not to take her phone to take a picture of his penis (which he was known for doing)."

Wait... what??

"Which he was known for doing..." So this guy grabbing other people's phones to photograph his genitals was just normal?

Also in the complaint was this: "Plaintiff felt unsafe and complained about the male firefighters brandishing their knives when unnecessary, but it was allowed to continue. Indeed, one of the male firefighters was heard saying, "I’d like to stick this knife in Chelsea."

Seriously? I can only imagine the defense that might be put forward here: "Hey, we're just kidding around. She can't take a joke."

As with all similar types of incidents, my first question is, What were the company officer and others in leadership positions doing when this was going on? But I think I already know the answer.

Source: Firelawblog.com and Powers v. Saginaw, US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

 

© Linda F. Willing, 2019