EMS World

NOV 2018

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26 NOVEMBER 2018 | EMSWORLD.com COVER REPORT: SEXUAL HARASSMENT woman haters and the officers and oth- ers who should have done something but didn't—have really learned anything. Insur- ance will pay the judgment, Zingarelli got a cushy exit, and everyone else…well, they got what they wanted, didn't they? "It almost feels like they won, because I'm not there, and it didn't affect them per- sonally in any way," Morningstar says. "You think, Well, the jury spoke loud and clear, maybe it'll promote change. Then, not even a week later, the city's giving the chief paid vacation until he retires. And I sit here and think, You never offered me my job back. You never even offered to right the wrong." Strategies Allowing that kind of harm to someone a chief is charged to protect should be very upsetting. In the interests of protecting both provider welfare and the jurisdictional bottom line, here are some key steps. First, have a written antiharassment policy and clear process for making com- plaints. Consider a reporting outlet out- side the department—for instance, to a city HR structure—to avoid potential bias and retaliation (though that didn't help Morningstar). Complaints must be reli- ably moved up the line as appropriate and acted upon fairly and quickly. Beyond being interviewed, accused harassers shouldn't be involved in their own investigation. 18 Even before a complaint is investigated, take steps to make sure any harassment can't continue—for instance, change schedules or put the accused on non- disciplinary leave with pay. Any separa- tion shouldn't burden the complaining employee, however, as that could amount to retaliation. "A good policy will outline the sort of conduct we want to see and behavior that's not acceptable," says Murphy. "Then there has to be some sort of consequence. You need a discipline policy that outlines the whole procedure of filing a charge, doing the investigation, having the hear- ings, and then some appeal process. We need to remember both rights: the rights of the employee targeted and the rights of the employee accused." Supplement policy with quality training (both Varone and Murphy offer it in this and related areas), but know that policy alone won't be enough. "My concern by saying you have to have a good policy is that some chief can say, 'All right, I'll spend some time and develop a good policy, and that will solve all my problems.' It' won't," says Varone. That's because sexual harassment isn't a techni- cal problem, with a solution that's known, but an adaptive challenge—about chang- ing hearts, minds, values, and belief sys- tems. "When you look at the lawsuits I've got catalogued," he adds, "those organiza- tions all had sexual harassment policies." Where they more likely went wrong is culture, and changing that is tougher. It comes from the top down, so leaders have to model the behavior they want to see. "Some of these departments always want to put their firefighters through train- ing, but the chiefs never have to go," notes Horvath. "That's a critical mistake. No fire- fighter in their right mind would look up to a chief who's not willing to lead the charge." From the other end, grooming and pro- moting women into leadership roles can help infuse the upper ranks with awareness and sensitivity to these problems. And cit- ies and departments have to invest—in the people, the equipment, the training, and the accommodations to nurture it. "You mention something like a nurs- ing station in the firehouse, and elected officials roll their eyes," says Varone. "But those same officials are the ones saying, 'We want women and don't understand why these lunkhead guys won't accept them!'" Engage problems early, before they grow. Ever y officer should be clear on exactly what to do about harassing or disrespectful behavior. Take these cases seriously in house before they burst out- side. Understand that workforces today are diverse, and that's not changing. And understand " tradition" doesn't trump rights. "I think if we look at it as a cultural improvement issue, as opposed to a diver- sity issue, it opens up a toolbox for how we can resolve some of it," says Horvath. "As a fire chief, you should always be concerned about culture—you always want to make sure you're providing the best possible work environment for everybody in the organization to be successful." Above all, don't believe it can't happen to you. Even with all the above measures in place, ongoing vigilance is necessary to keep things aboveboard. "If you have women in your fire depart- ment, you have a sexual harassment prob- lem—it's that pervasive," says Varone. "And that should say something about how dif- ficult a challenge it is. Because we have some very good leaders and terrific organi- zations out there, and it's the kind of issue where both labor and management can rally around a solution, and it's still defied solution for 50 years." REFERENCES 1. Sweeney A, Meisner J. Five female paramedics sue, alleging pervasive sexual harassment at Chicago Fire Department. Chicago Tribune, 2018 May 2; www.chicagotribune.com/news/ local/breaking/ct-met-sex-harassment-lawsuit-chicago-fire- department-20180501-story.html. 2. U.S. Department of Justice. Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against City of Houston for Sex Discrimination and Retaliation, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-lawsuit- against-city-houston-sex-discrimination-and-retaliation. Take claims of sexual harassment seriously in house before they burst outside.

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