In April, we wrote about a female firefighter in South Florida who won a major lawsuit against the city of Miami Beach. The disturbing incidents of sexual harassment she endured, allegedly perpetrated by her male coworkers, are a sad reminder that antiquated attitudes and unacceptable gender stereotypes are still present in some South Florida workplaces.
Recently, the nearby town of Davie reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve complaints filed by several of the town's female firefighters. The women allege that the fire department has policies in place which amount to gender and pregnancy discrimination.
Every pregnant woman has different medical needs, and each pregnancy must progress at its own pace. However, the fire department's current policies do not allow pregnant firefighters to switch to light-duty work until their second trimester has begun.
In some cases, this policy has forced pregnant women off of fully duty too soon, despite their ability to continue. In other cases, enforcement of the policy has meant keeping pregnant women on full duty for too long, despite health risks to the women and their unborn babies.
In all, 10 female firefighters (current and former) filed EEOC complaints. Sadly, one of these women lost her unborn baby because of the rigidly enforced policy. She alleges that she was not allowed to go on light duty in 2009 because she was still in her first trimester. She even presented a doctor's note, but was still unsuccessful.
The woman miscarried about 8 days after fighting a particular fire while still on full duty. She said: "My doctor did not feel comfortable with me working full duty, but I had no choice because I needed the money."
No employee - female or male - should be forced into such a dilemma. Additionally, decisions regarding work duty as it relates to pregnancy should only be made by the pregnant woman herself, with advice from her doctor.
Check back later this week as we continue our discussion.
Source: Sun Sentinel, "Davie discriminated against pregnant firefighters, feds say," Susannah Bryan, June 22, 2012