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 2020 Issue Number 238

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

Diversity as Discipline?

An Indiana firefighter with over 20 years on the job publicly uses a racial slur while on duty, in clear violation of department policy. It is recommended that he be suspended for five days and serve a year probation as discipline for the offense. Then someone on the Merit Commission, which has the final say on disciplinary issues, has other ideas. Why not appoint the offending firefighter to be a liaison between a local diversity trainer and the department, for the purpose of improving diversity relations?

Is this a good idea? The answer to that is a very tentative maybe.

If the firefighter in question is truly motivated to make a change and help others better understand the value of diversity, and can truly and wholeheartedly commit to the new role, then maybe. Even if all these factors are in place, the move seems to undermine the fact that those who do diversity training and consulting are trained professionals with years of experience. Using that role as an alternative to discipline undercuts the value of that training.

But what if the firefighter in question is not really committed or even interested in taking on this new role? What if he pays lip service to it only, with everyone close to him aware of his true feelings? Then even more damage is done.

A subsequent report about this incident raises even more concerns. A month after the original deal was reported, the commission clarified by saying that the firefighter must meet with the fire chief every two weeks to be a reporter of any discriminatory remarks.

So now the newest diversity trainer-under-duress is really acting as a snitch? What could possibly go wrong with that?

Diversity training is important and when done right, can provide tremendous value to organizations. It should not be used as discipline. Ever.

Sources: Evansville Courier and Press, February 3, 2020 and 14news.com March 10, 2020


News Brief

A federal appeals court has rejected a legal challenge by a Texas firefighter who lost his job in 2016 after refusing to be vaccinated for religious reasons. The firefighter claimed his religious freedom was violated following a dispute over a vaccine policy that resulted in his termination. A federal appeals court ruled against him in January, noting that he was offered alternate accommodations, one of which was wearing a mask at work. This case was decided before Covid-19 became a factor for fire departments in the United States.

Source: Austin-American Statesman, January 9, 2020

Sexual Harassment Update

A Case for Documentation

A federal judge has ruled that Toledo officials did not racially discriminate against a black Toledo Fire & Rescue Department recruit when they fired him in 2018. The department stated that he was fired due to his inability to perform a required skill evolution, despite numerous opportunities to do so. The recruit claimed that he was repeatedly discriminated against based on his race during his training and that he was forced to meet higher training requirements than his white counterparts.

However, the documentation related to this case tells a different story.

The department kept detailed records of the recruit's training history. According to the ruling, "His three March failures could have been the end of his tenure with the fire department, but Defendants instead gave him six more chances, along with hours of one-on-one help. No recruit had ever received more than three opportunities to pass the vertical-ventilation test."

Additionally, the documentation showed no concrete examples of racial bias against him at the academy.

The firefighter stated that other Toledo fire recruits and employees have alleged both racial and gender discrimination in the department in the last two years. While this may be true, it does not have direct bearing on whether discrimination occurred in this particular incident.

"The City of Toledo bent over backwards to help [this recruit] become a firefighter. He failed not because of racial discrimination, but because he was unable to perform a critical skill that firefighters need to protect their communities," the judge stated in his ruling. Because of extensive documentation, the city appears to have the proof to back this up.

Sources: Toledo Blade, April 16, 2020; firelawblog.com April 17, 2020


© Linda F. Willing, 2020