Successful fire and EMS departments prioritize the health and safety of their members and foster a positive, inclusive environment where their members can thrive. Unfortunately, instances of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation do just the opposite, harming individuals and the entire department. Departments can protect their members and the organization by adopting proactive measures to identify and respond to discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
To help departments and individual members of the fire service address this under-recognized problem, Women in Fire and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) have partnered to release the Fire Service Discrimination & Harassment Toolkit. This new resource aims to help both volunteer and career first responders prevent, identify, and respond to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.
The toolkit is designed to fill in the gaps in understanding for members of the fire service who may not know what qualifies as harassment and discrimination or what to do if they or someone they know is the target of these actions. Information provided includes:
- Who is protected by federal employment laws
- Who can perpetrate harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation in the workplace
- That conduct can be inappropriate for the workplace even if it does not meet the legal definition of unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation
- What actions can constitute discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace
- What to do if you suspect that you are being targeted by harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace
- Where to find available resources
“Every emergency response leader must accept that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace,” said NVFC Maryland Director David Lewis. “This applies equally in workplaces employing paid and/or volunteer personnel. Ignorance of the laws, regulations, and requirements cannot be held as an excuse for not taking appropriate action. The Fire Service Discrimination and Harassment Toolkit is an excellent reference resource on the legal framework on discrimination and harassment and should be used in every officer development training program as well as be a stand ready reference guide on every officer’s bookshelf.”
Developed in consultation with an attorney specializing in these issues, the toolkit will equip responders with the knowledge to recognize, confront, or prevent certain unlawful or unwanted employment actions. However, it does not replace legal advice, and individuals experiencing discrimination or harassment are encouraged to contact an attorney for advisement.
Women in Fire and the NVFC are committed to creating a respectful, harassment-free fire service for future generations. Be part of the movement by understanding the issues of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation and making changes in your department to eliminate these behaviors and create an inclusive and welcoming firehouse environment for all.
Access the Fire Service Discrimination and Harassment Toolkit here: