The pregnancy paradox: Why are fire departments not required to accommodate?
Pregnancy should not require female firefighters to abandon their careers, pay and benefits in exchange for the safety of their baby
Linda Willing, a retired career fire officer with more than 20 years in the emergency services, is a member of the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief Editorial Advisory Board. Read more of Linda’s insight and analysis into fire service leadership issues and challenges here.
Two stories about pregnant firefighters have been in the news lately. In one, a firefighter is working on the line into her last month of pregnancy, because her department says it is barred by contract from offering her an alternate duty assignment. In another, it was reported that a woman who chose to continue working well into her pregnancy said she had experienced discrimination because of this fact.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the firefighter who insisted on continuing to work her regular shifts while pregnant did so only after repeatedly being refused an alternate non-hazardous duty assignment. The other woman also asked for such an assignment but was told it was contractually impossible to accommodate her.
Pregnancy should not require a choice between career and safety
Most people agree it is not a good idea to fight fires, respond on hazardous materials calls, or be exposed to infectious diseases while pregnant. There are risks to both the woman and the baby she is carrying.