http://localhost:4503/content/fe/en/blogs/blognetwork/john-k-murphy.html2015-12-17T03:47:46.728ZJohn K. MurphyAdobe Experience ManagerRollbacks in Firefighter Pensionsnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. Murphy<span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">In past blogs, I have warned that Cities, Towns and other governmental entities have set their sights on firefighter&rsquo;s pensions and other public pension retirement benefits to include among the other egregious actions of reducing the numbers of firefighters, station brownouts and outright terminations of firefighters due to budgetary issues. The most recent and continued assault against firefighters is found in the latest decision by voters in San Diego and San Jose, the nation's eighth- and 10th-largest cities, who overwhelmingly approved ballot measures last week to roll back municipal retirement benefits &ndash; and not just for future hires but for current employees. In a recent newspaper article confirmed that all across the country, the pensions of current public employees have long been generally considered untouchable. Now politicians are saying those pension obligations are trumped by the need to provide for the public's health and safety at the expense of the firefighter or police officer. It harkens back to the day where there was no retirement safety net, other than social security, for those who place their lives on the line everyday and hope to retire illness and injury free. <o:p></o:p></span><br /> <br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">It is interesting that this battle for pensions have reached a new high (or low) and that these battles are now being heard in courts all across the country. Yes, it is a major issue with the increasing size of pension obligations, but is it the fault of the firefighter or police officer? Now the fire service has been portrayed as a bad guy when compared to the increased threat to schools, police, health clinics and other basic services. How did this happen?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>In San Jose, current employees face salary cuts of up to 16 percent to fund the city's pension plan. If they choose, they can instead accept a lower benefit and see the current retirement age of 55 raised to 57 for police officers and firefighters, and to 62 for other employees. The voter-approved measure in San Diego imposes a six-year freeze on the pay levels used to determine pension benefits for current employees, a move that is expected to save nearly $1 billion over 30 years. <o:p></o:p></span><br /> <br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">This is yet another method to correct past bad behavior of the elected officials of placing the burden of poor planning, financial mismanagement or sheer ineptitude on the part of the elected or appointed officials and placing these burdens on the backs of hardworking firefighters and their families <o:p></o:p></span><br /> <br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">As a profession, we need to pay attention to what is happening to our pension system and the small and large erosion's of those hard earned benefits. What other profession, other than the military, are individuals expected to and willingly place themselves in harm&rsquo;s way for the community? None that I know of - to include those City Managers, Mayors and most elected officials.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s up to each and every one of you to take an activist interest in your pension and benefits for yourselves and your families. <o:p></o:p></span><br /><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-3072457831407182720?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-30724578314071827202012-06-12T21:32:00.002Z2012-06-13T13:55:17.927ZLegal Fire Prevention - Social Media Policynoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyWith the recent spate of demotions, terminations and litigation related to the use of social media to post your likes, dislikes, ranting and ravings under an assumption that your First Amendment protections apply to you, here is another thought. They don&rsquo;t always pertain to you when you write about certain things on your Facebook, Twitter account or other social media avenues. If you listen to Curt Varone or Chip Comstock, two fire department attorney's and&nbsp;experts on social media and First Amendment rights, they will tell you and they HAVE TOLD you in the past&nbsp;that there are certain protections and certain liabilities related to your freedom of speech. The courts have weighed in on these issues finding for one side or the other based on the interpretation of the facts of protected or unprotected speech. There are no simple solutions to this conundrum.<br /><br />A simple and enforceable policy may assist you and your department is avoiding the Legal Fire&rsquo;s of a social media policy.&nbsp;I gathered this from another source, take no editoral credit&nbsp;and&nbsp;apologize for the lack of citations (a weak legal disclaimer) but the policy can be as simple as this one.<br /><div></div><div>I) PURPOSE</div><ul><li>The fire department endorses the secure use of social media to enhance communication and information exchange; streamline processes; and foster productivity with its employees. This policy establishes this fire department&rsquo;s position on the use and management of social media and provides guidelines on the management, administration, and oversight. This policy is not meant to address one particular form of social media; rather social media in general in general terms as technology will outpace our ability to discover emerging technology and create policies governing its use.</li></ul><div>II) PHILOSOPHY</div><ul><li>Social media provides a valuable means of assisting the fire department and its personnel in meeting community education, community information, fire prevention, and other related organizational and community objectives. This policy identifies possible uses that may be evaluated and utilized as deemed necessary fire administrative and supervisory personnel. This department also recognizes the role that social media tools may play in the personal lives of department personnel. The personal use of social media can have an effect on fire departmental personnel in their official capacity as firefighters. This policy is a means to provide of a precautionary nature as well as restrictions prohibitions on the use of social media by department personnel.</li></ul><div>III) DEFINITIONS</div><ul><li>Blog: A self-published diary or commentary on a particular topic that may allow visitors to post responses, reactions, or comments. </li><li>Post: Content an individual shares on a social media site or the act of publishing content on a site. </li><li>Profile: Information that a user provides about himself or herself on a social networking site. </li><li>Social Media: A category of Internet based resources that enable the user to generate content and encourage other user participation. This includes, but is not limited to, social networking sites: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs, and other sites. (There are thousands of these types of sites and this is only a short list.)</li><li>Social Networks: Platforms where users can create profiles, share information, and socialize with others using a range of technologies. </li><li>Speech: Expression or communication of thoughts or opinions in spoken words, in writing, by expressive conduct, symbolism, photographs, videotape, or related forms of communication.</li></ul><div>IV) POLICY</div><div>1.Strategic Policy</div><ul><li>Determine strategy</li><ul><li>Each social media page shall include an introductory statement that clearly specifies the purpose and scope of the agency&rsquo;s presence on the website.</li><li>Social Media page(s) should link to the department&rsquo;s official website. </li><li>Social media page(s) shall be designed for the target audience(s) such as the community, civic leadership, employees or potential recruits.</li></ul><li>Procedures</li><ul><li>All department social media sites or pages shall be approved by the Chief of the Department or designee and shall be administered by the departmental information services section or designee. </li><li>Social media pages shall clearly indicate they are maintained by the fire department and shall have department logo and contact information prominently displayed. </li><li>Social media content shall adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and policies, including all information technology and records management policies of the department.</li><li>Social Media content is subject to open public records laws. </li><li>Relevant records retention schedules apply to social media content. </li><li>Content must be managed, stored, and retrieved to comply with open records laws and e-discovery laws and policies. </li><li>Social media pages should state that the opinions expressed by visitors to the page(s) do not reflect the opinions of the department. </li><li>Social Media pages shall clearly indicate that posted comments will be monitored and that the department reserves the right to remove obscenities, off-topic comments, and personal attacks. </li><li>Social Media pages shall clearly indicate that any content posted or submitted for posting is subject to public disclosure. </li></ul></ul><div>2. Department-Sanctioned Use</div><ul><li>Department personnel representing the department via social media outlets shall do the following: </li><ul><li>The use of department computers by department personnel to access social media is prohibited without authorization. </li><li>Conduct themselves at all times as representatives of the department and, accordingly, shall adhere to all department standards of conduct and observe conventionally accepted protocols and proper decorum.</li><li>Identify themselves as a member of the department. </li><li>Post, transmit, or otherwise disseminate confidential information, including photographs or videos, related to department training, activities, or work-related assignments without express written permission. </li><li>Do not conduct political activities or private business. </li><li>Department personnel use of personally owned devices to manage the department&rsquo;s social media activities or in the course of official duties is prohibited without express written permission. </li><li>Employees shall observe and abide by all copyright, trademark, and service mark restrictions in posting materials to electronic media.</li></ul></ul><div>3. Potential Uses</div><ul><li>Social media is a valuable investigative tool when providing information about</li><ul><li>road closures,</li><li>special events,</li><li>weather emergencies, and</li><li>major ongoing events in the jurisdiction that affects the entire community.</li></ul><li>Employment Opportunities - Persons seeking employment and volunteer positions use the Internet to search for opportunities.</li><li>Background Checks - For authorized members to conduct a background check on potential employees or volunteers </li><ul><li>Candidates applying for employment with this department must sign a release document enabling an assigned employee to conduct a background check using any resource to include social media. </li><li>This department has an obligation to include Internet-based content when conducting background investigations of job candidates.</li><li>Searches should be conducted by Human Resources or with permission from the Chief of the Department and only for the purposes or providing possible background material on an employee candidate. </li><ul><li>Information pertaining to protected class status shall be filtered out prior to sharing any information found online with decision makers.</li></ul><li>Persons authorized to search Internet-based content should be deemed as holding a sensitive position.</li><li>Search methods shall not involve techniques that are a violation of existing law.</li><li>Vetting techniques using social media as one of many resources to provide valid and up to date information shall be applied uniformly to all candidates.</li><li>Every effort must be made to validate Internet based information considered during the hiring process. </li><ul><li>This shall not be the only mechanism to provide background information on a possible candidate.</li></ul></ul></ul><div>4. Personal Use</div><ul><li>a) Precautions and Prohibitions</li><ul><li>Department personnel shall abide by the following when using social media.</li><ul><li>Department personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair working relationships of this department for which loyalty and confidentiality are important, impede the performance of duties, impair discipline and harmony among coworkers, or negatively affect the public perception of the department.</li><li>As public employees, department personnel are cautioned that their speech either on or off duty, and in the course of their official duties that has a nexus to the employee&rsquo;s professional duties and responsibilities may not necessarily be protected speech under the First Amendment. </li><ul><li>This may form the basis for discipline if deemed detrimental to the department. </li></ul><li>Department personnel should assume that their speech and related activity on social media sites will reflect upon their position within the department and of this department.</li><li>Department personnel shall not post, transmit, or otherwise disseminate any information to which they have access as a result of their employment without written permission from the Fire Chief or designee.</li><li>Department personnel are cautioned not to do the following:</li><ul><li>Display department logos, uniforms, or similar identifying items on personal web pages without prior written permission.</li><li>Post personal photographs or provide similar means of personal recognition that may cause you to be identified as a firefighter, fire officer or employee of this department. </li><li>When using social media, department personnel should be mindful that their speech becomes part of the worldwide web. </li></ul><li>Adherence to the department&rsquo;s code of conduct is required in the personal use of social media. In particular, department personnel are prohibited from the following:</li><ul><li>Speech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, or acts and statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals. </li><li>Speech involving themselves or other department personnel reflecting behavior that would reasonably be considered reckless or irresponsible. </li><li>Department personnel may not divulge information gained by reason of their authority; make any statements, speeches, appearances, and endorsements; or publish materials that could reasonably be considered to represent the views or positions of this department without express authorization. </li><li>Department personnel should be aware that they may be subject to civil litigation for publishing or posting false information that harms the reputation of another person, group, or organization otherwise known as defamation to include: </li><ul><li>publishing or posting private facts and personal information about someone without their permission that has not been previously revealed to the public, is not of legitimate public concern, and would be offensive to a reasonable person; </li><li>using someone else&rsquo;s name, likeness, or other personal attributes without that person&rsquo;s permission for an exploitative purpose; or </li><li>publishing the creative work of another, trademarks, or certain confidential business information without the permission of the owner.</li></ul></ul><li>Department personnel should be aware that privacy settings and social media sites are constantly in flux, and they should never assume that personal information posted on such sites is protected. </li><li>Department personnel should expect that any information created, transmitted, downloaded, exchanged, or discussed in a public online forum may be accessed by the department at any time without prior notice. </li></ul></ul></ul><div>II) VIOLATIONS</div><ul><li>Reporting violations. </li><ul><li>Any employee becoming aware of or having knowledge of a posting or of any website or web page in violation of the provision of this policy shall notify his or her supervisor immediately for follow-up action. </li></ul><li>Violation of this social media policy may result in suspension or termination.</li></ul><div>Here are a few simple rules revisited from Page, Wolfberg &amp; Wirth, LLC contributing to this discussion:</div><ul><li>Don't post inappropriate pictures or images</li><li>Don&rsquo;t link your work activities to your Facebook postings. For example letting people know that you are a firefighter with ABC Fire Department and proceed to trash talk the Chief, elected officials or other firefighters. Safety yes, trash no.</li><li>Don't complain about your job, supervisors, or co-workers in a public forum </li><li>These comments reflect poorly on you, the organization, and the persons that you criticize. Negative and derogatory comments may also lead to claims of defamation and slander. </li><li>Don't post inappropriate "statuses" Avoid any status updates that discuss patient care situations, your department, or other staff members, or that may implicate unprofessional conduct. </li><li>Be particular about your "friends" and associations. You can't control what your friends post to your profile (although you can remove it once you see it), nor what they post to their own profiles or to those of mutual friends. </li><li>&nbsp;Check your privacy and security settings and know their rules. Privacy and security settings on social networking sites can be confusing and hard to deal with. It is now possible to customize lists of friends and decide what each list can and cannot see. </li><li>Consider establishing a "professional" profile page</li><li>Don't use social networking while engaged in patient care or work activities. Access to social networking sites on your personal device should only occur in absolute down time as you would use a personal cell phone when on duty (if this is permitted by your agency). It is inappropriate to post statuses or to view social networking profiles while with a patient or engaged in company work activity. </li><li>Don't misrepresent yourself or others. You should be careful that what you post about your training and education is accurate and consistent with information you have given to your employer. </li><li>Be who you are. Some posters and bloggers work anonymously, using false screen names. That is usually not a good idea. Transparency and honesty are the best policies to follow. Hiding behind a "handle" name may embolden you to post things you would not ordinarily post (and against your better judgment!). </li><li>Respect copyright and fair use laws. For your employer's protection as well as your own, it is critical that you respect laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others, including your department or agency's copyrights, logos or images. Use citations early and often.</li></ul><div>&nbsp;These are a few simple rules to follow to avoid these Legal Fires. Consult with your local or department attorney for a social media policy applicable to your department. You cannot hold your firefighters responsible if you have no written social media policy and due to the increasing chatter </div><div>on-line about many different issues dealing with you or your department an enforceable policy created now is better than a trashing in the news media or in front of a judge. </div><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-8139836494034265381?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-81398364940342653812012-05-16T22:34:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:17.488ZThe Fire Service Crucible &ndash; are we prepared to withstand the heat in order to survive?noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyAccording to Wikipedia, a crucible is a container that can withstand very high temperatures and is used for metal, glass and pigment production as well as a number of modern laboratory processes. While crucibles historically were usually made from clay, they can be made from any material that withstands temperatures high enough to melt or otherwise alter its contents. 1 <br /><br />The Dictionary defines a crucible as a severe test, as of patience or belief; a trial. <br /><br />For the Marine Corps, the Crucible is the 54-hour culmination to the transformation of recruit training. It is a physically and mentally challenging event that involves food and sleep deprivation and the completion of various obstacles for the potential Marine to negotiate. There are some fire department recruit academies who use the principles of a crucible to test the firefighter skills in a series of demanding tasks prior to their graduation from a recruit academy and a recent publication entitled Crucible of Fire: Nineteenth Century Urban Fires and the Making of the Modern Fire Service by Bruce Hensler, the author writes that our long-term survival and development of society depended on the control of fire. Mastery of fire required knowledge and the development of accepted practices for control. City-dwellers grew dependent on fire for their survival; they had to learn to control it. Humans learned to follow fire control practices every day to ensure preservation of the means of survival, whether in a primitive or industrial society. Failure to follow the rules carried a high price, even death. <br /><br />Are we now facing a fire service crucible in the area of political and budgetary survival where the strong survive the downturn in the economy? I have written several articles outlining the trends across the county of economic downturn affecting our services. Brownouts, reductions in positions and not replacing vacant firefighter positions is testing the mettle of our services. It takes strong leadership to manage this crises in our organizations and not to bend to the incredible pressure to reduce services to the community and endangering our firefighters. What can our leadership do to harden our resolve and collective need for maintaining our public safety presences in your communities? <br /><br />This is our crucible &ndash; incredible pressure and &ldquo;heat&rdquo; should make us stronger, but can the &ldquo;container&rdquo; of our leadership withstand the forces without breaking? We need to change the current model of &ldquo;status quo&rdquo; and &ldquo;preservation of positions&rdquo; to one of collaboration and cooperation with our surrounding jurisdictions by consolidating of services; look to a different &ldquo;business model&rdquo; of providing services to include one person responses on some EMS calls; single engine response on alarms not validated by a phone call by dispatch to the residence or business; creative staffing on ladders and engines that provide efficient but safe services &ndash; out of the box thinking is required to manage these crisis. Money is one of the issues here and there are some agencies charging for services. We are seeing billing for EMS transport, hazardous material mitigation and for certain fire inspection and new construction plan review. That concept may be heresy in some areas but the reality is there are insurance carriers that pay for those services and we need to go after this low hanging financial fruit. <br /><br />Again there are no simple answers and this current economic challenge is the most recent Fire Services Crucible: don&rsquo;t crack under the pressure and for that we will be a stronger service. <br /><br />1 Percy, John. Natural Refractory Materials Employed in the Construction of Crucibles, Retorts, Forunaces &amp;c. Metallurgy. London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1861. 208&ndash;09. Print<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-6660684667414949096?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-66606846674149490962012-05-01T19:09:00.004Z2012-06-13T13:55:17.738ZPesky Legal Fires that Keep on Burningnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyI&rsquo;m the little voice in your head (otherwise known as your conscience) that keeps reminding you that you should not do this or that because it is: wrong, illegal, immoral or fattening. I am taking this opportunity to remind you of the pesky legal fires that keep on burning. Giving a nod to my legal counterparts across this nation, Curt Varone, Chip Comstock and Brad Pinsky, who preach the same mantra about trying to prevent a legal fire in your department, here are the top six legal fires that will continue to burn you and your department unless there is wholesale changes in the way we conduct ourselves and our departments. This is a short list of the numerous violations committed by firefighters and our leadership almost every day across the country. There is no one group (career v volunteer) or one sector of the country (urban, suburban or rural) or gender or ethnicity or religion. We are all painted by the same paintbrush in the eyes of the media and ultimately by our community. Let me reassure you that we have a war going on in our industry &ndash; because the politicians are making hay out of your jobs, salaries, affiliations and the actual work you do &ndash; and not in a good way &ndash; it is imperative that we keep on the straight and narrow. I like to use this test &ndash; would you like your mother to read about you in the morning newspaper or see your face on CNN because you did the following or were involved in the following egregious activities.<br /><br /><strong>Discrimination</strong> &ndash; let&rsquo;s get with the program here. The Civil Rights Act and its amendments were passed over 50 years ago and we continue to see discriminatory acts rear its ugly head almost every day across our country with major awards provided to the aggrieved parties. Let&rsquo;s look at FDNY, Chicago, New Haven and several other cities that have been accused of discriminatory practices and have been taken to the woodshed for their actions. Awards in the millions of dollars are often provided those disadvantaged and those not promoted have been promoted and those not hired have been hired. What of the women, people of color and minorities in our fire services? They find themselves the target of many breaches in policy and the law as it pertains to hiring, fire station facilities like bathrooms, hazing, pranks, ill fitting uniforms and &ldquo;selected&rdquo; for special treatment by other firefighters in the station because they are &ldquo;different&rdquo;. Hell we&rsquo;re all different and that is what makes our services so sought after. We are all unique in who we are and what we do. Leave your prejudices at the door and accept that woman or that man regardless of color, religious beliefs and sexual preferences. Our service will be better off in the long run and we can set an example for other industry to emulate. <br /><br /><strong>Wrongful termination or demotions</strong> &ndash; if we cannot get terminations or demotions correct, then we need to step out of the leadership role and let someone more qualified administer these programs. There are several effective training seminars provided by Curt Varone and others that will provide step by step processes for demoting and terminating individuals in your department. Why do we do such a bad job at these personnel issues? There are hundreds of reasons but there is no excuse to fumble a simple or complicated internal investigation, demotion or termination in your department. Again the legal examples are: terminated and demoted employees are getting their jobs back and driving a new car to work because you &ldquo;ham boned&rdquo; the process and the demoted or terminated attorneys took your department to the woodshed on this issue as well. <br /><br /><strong>Embezzlement</strong> &ndash; WHAT! and you thought you were not going to get caught. You must be foolish to think you can steal thousands and sometimes millions of dollars from your department. Look at the recent examples across the country where fire chiefs, secretaries, trustees, union officials and other&rsquo;s have been dipping into that large money pot of public funds. YES it is stealing and stealing is still a crime. I say, violate the public trust and if I were the judge, I would toss away the key and let you rot in jail. There are simple checks and balances you can implement in your department to prevent such opportunity for those less equipped to resist the urge. Audit, two signatures on each check, reconciling your monthly expenses, outsource your finances to a licensed and bonded accountant and many many more. Think of the opportunities someone has in your department to steal and place preventive measures in place to quash those attempts. <br /><br /><strong>Sexual Assault on a patient or employee</strong> &ndash; here we go, taking advantage of a compromised patient or a vulnerable employee. Yes it is a crime to sexually assault your patient or employee and many times the penalty is both jail time AND a financial award to the plaintiff. There needs to be adequate pre-screening of all new employees for criminal background and a psychological testing to see if the new employee or recently promoted officer has any &ldquo;quirks&rdquo; that may lead to these assaults. It seems as though we read of these offenses by members of our organizations. Active supervision is required by the firefighters and fire officers to prevent these activities both in and out of the fire stations and in the back of our ambulances. Education coupled with supervision will go along way stopping these events. <br /><br /><strong>Drugs or alcohol in the fire stations</strong> &ndash; no, the fire station is not your &ldquo;real&rdquo; house. It is a public building, not a bar and certainly not a place to smoke a joint or have a nightcap before turning in. How many volunteer and career firefighters have gotten in trouble drinking in the fire stations? Hundreds and we continue to violate our policies or the good common sense required by our position in the fire services. The International Fire Chiefs Association has a Zero Tolerance policy against driving or operating a vehicle after having drinks. Certainly smoking a dobie is illegal in all of the states even those permissible states that allow medical marijuana. No you do not have a vision problem that necessitates the use of this herb so don&rsquo;t go there. Let&rsquo;s use our good common sense here and keep alcohol and drugs out of the stations. <br /><br /><strong>Inappropriate use of social media</strong> &ndash; OK we&rsquo;ve beaten you up on this issue hundreds of times in many articles yet we continue to get on line and post something inappropriate. For you medical personnel there is a little law called HIPAA that prevents the unauthorized release of medical information. If you do not believe me then ask the EMT from NY or the paramedic from Georgia or the firefighter in Florida whose city manager placed his medical record available to the media justifying the paramedic&rsquo;s termination for alleged use of drugs. Also talk to CVS Caremark and large pharmacy that was fined over one million dollars for tossing written prescriptions into the dumpster and not properly disposing of them. For you firefighters with camera phones, ask the parents of the dead girl photographed at an accident scene and placed it on the Internet. I suggest that your department create a simple policy related to the use of social media but we say TWEET with caution. <br /><br />That&rsquo;s all for now as this is the tip of the legal iceberg for the fire service. There are many more examples of egregious legal actions involving firefighters and fire officers but you probably are at the end of your reading attention span. <br /><br />Attorneys Murphy, Varone, Pinsky and Comstock all will be engaging in legal speak at their various lectures&nbsp;at this years FDIC April 16-21, 2012 in Indianapolis. Hope to see you all there. <br /><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-2094764974034623347?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-20947649740346233472012-03-27T01:28:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:18.112ZPAIN IS WEAKNESS LEAVING THE BODYnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. Murphy<span style="font-family: Calibri;">For you Marines in the reading audience, you can relate to the days of boot camp and the Drill Instructor in your face yelling at you when you are on your last legs, fatigued beyond your imagination and you were about to drop:<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>to motivate you to go farther, do more and perform beyond your capacity as if your life depended on it. As many of you found out as you were deployed around the world, that those moments where you wanted to do bodily harm to your DI, you found out that he was right when he said you need to perform beyond your perceived capabilities. The same holds true in our fire services that are under attack by your elected officials. Today, and nearly every day, we continue to see firefighter layoffs, closing of fire stations, reduction in budgets, delay in purchasing or upgrading vital equipment needed for our survival and the elected officials not taking responsibility for these actions against a vital life safety net for our citizens. It&rsquo;s not all about preserving jobs, but the real &ldquo;pain&rdquo; is to our citizens, with delayed responses, insufficient firefighter response at emergencies jeopardizing their safety and deaths of our citizens. Your politicians are doing &ldquo;things&rdquo; to your fire department that are not always in your best interests. </span><br /> <br /><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri;">As you remember the Haverhill (MA) firefighter accusing the mayor of murder? <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span>A bold and emotional statement as a member of the community lost her life due to a perceived shortfall of firefighters on the rescue unit and at the scene. As we have seen in that instance, the response by the elected officials was to restore funding and staffing to the rescue unit. That restoration of funds and staffing will probably not occur in your community under the same or similar circumstances. The fallout will continue for this firefighter and the community, but the reality was there was a &ldquo;painful&rdquo; cut to the budget that may have led to this loss of life. </span></div><span style="font-family: Calibri;">Is this the &ldquo;painful&rdquo; reality of today &ndash; an emotional response to a fatality in our community because we as a department or its leadership did not do enough on the front end to prevent the reduction of firefighters, a reduction of budget and a closure of fire stations? I am not sure how your fire departments are politically connected with the elected officials and I have written in the past that we, as a public service, are playing second fiddle to the police and potholes in your community. </span><br /> <br /><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri;">It is time to step up to the plate as a body politic to fight like hell to mitigate the reduction in your community&rsquo;s first line safety net for your citizens. It is &ldquo;painful&rdquo; to attend all of the City council meetings, to sit on City or County staff meetings and to work with your representative groups to have your voices heard. Personally, I get tired of the excuses by some department leadership that &ldquo;we have no control&rdquo; over those decisions made at city hall, in the county councils or by commissioners, &ldquo;that the elected officials make the decision.&rdquo; I say, that&rsquo;s a bunch of BS where you have essentially given up the &ldquo;painful fight&rdquo; of going beyond your capabilities to represent those in your community that will suffer the ill effects of budget cuts including the reduction of firefighters in your departments. I also say, that if you cannot do it, then step down or step aside for some capable of &ldquo;fighting the fight.&rdquo; </span></div><span style="font-family: Calibri;">There are no simple short term solutions, but here are a few long term suggestions: get involved in the electoral process and run for public office; spend time with your elected officials so they know who you are and of your needs; have members of the labor group of other representative organizations get to know the elected officials; get to know your community as community support is vital to our survival. </span><br /> <br /><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri;">This includes the constant education of your community to your needs and the effects budget cuts will have on your vital services. Remember that the community has a short term memory and constant reminders are imperative to our survival. Do not just back into the fire station, park the apparatus and close the doors. Keep the fire house doors open to remind your community that you are a vital presence; get involved with the local schools K-12 and do everything possible to remind your citizens that the big red and shiny fire engine does more than go to fires. Big spectacular fires only last a short time in the memories of the citizens. There needs to be a constant presence with &ldquo;all things fire&rdquo; in the press, community newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and periodic informational mailers to all who live in your response areas. Get your PIO to generate weekly press releases about the fire department activities no matter has small so there is a continual presence in the memories of our community. </span></div><span style="font-family: Calibri;">Our survival depends on it and it may be beyond your capabilities to do this but in order to survive this &ldquo;firefight&rdquo; and live to fight another day, you must perform beyond your capabilities. So for you Marines, Semper Fidelis and that slogan should extend to our fire services as well - Always Faithful. Let&rsquo;s not let the elected officials&nbsp;dictate our future and go beyond your capabilities to secure our future. Painful, yes but the weakness will be leaving your &ldquo;fire department body&rdquo; when you are involved. </span><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-977908798657887265?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-9779087986578872652012-03-19T14:09:00.002Z2012-06-13T13:55:18.299ZThe Night Before Christmas, Legally Speakingnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyWhereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.<br /><br />A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St.Nick, aka. St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at some time thereafter.<br /><br />The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.<br /><br />Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in Fee Simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear. e.g. kerchief and cap.)<br /><br />Suddenly, and without prior notice or adequate waning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.<br /><br />At that time, the party of the first party did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter the "Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer.<br /><br />The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus. Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter the "Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)<br /><br />The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature.<br /><br />Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney without valid Confined Space Entry Permits. Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys and other unknown items.<br /><br />He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation and disregard of local ordinances and health regulations. Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items, however, did not constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S Tax Code.)<br /><br />Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.<br /><br />However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night'' Or words to that effect.<br /><br />And further analysis after said Santa left the premises; said gifts were not all properly documented as to country of origin, Warranty nor fitness for intended use(s), and no MSDS documentation was provided for any of said articles.&nbsp; Vendor displayed no proper confirmation of license to conduct transactions within the local municipal boundaries, and convenience was not equipped to placard of transported materials, some hazardous.&nbsp; The Santa conveyance bore no vehicle license, and had no apparent provisions for obeying the specifics of the local 'scoop' laws (of which substantial amounts were discovered.)&nbsp; <br /><br />A large whip was noted, with its potential to harass and inflict pain or harm to the harnessed ruminant locomotion sources in violation of the local Pasado laws. No safety harnessing of any kind was noted about the vehicle, nor were harness, tied-downs, nor respirator use&nbsp;were detected during descent through confined space to the interior of the&nbsp;dwelling.&nbsp;<br /><br />A warrant has been issued. <br /><br /><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">Signed</div><br /><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: #0070c0; font-family: &quot;Freestyle Script&quot;; font-size: 24pt;">Scrooge<o:p></o:p></span></b></div>Scrooge<br /><br />Source: many but all anonymous <br /><br /><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-1780851864578132084?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-17808518645781320842011-12-22T16:08:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:18.596ZLessons Learned: Discrimination against a Disabled Firefighternoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. Murphy<span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;">FACT PATTERN - A St. Paul firefighter's federal legal claims of discrimination because of his limited eyesight won a $528,432 payout, according to a settlement reached by attorneys for the city and plaintiff. The firefighter was diagnosed with macular degeneration, later specifically identified as Stargardt's disease. The firefighter was unable to read small print without magnification has driver's license restrictions and experiences distortion at the center of his vision, according to his federal lawsuit filed in August 2009. The firefighter&rsquo;s lawsuit said that despite his vision problems, he successfully performed his duties as a firefighter and EMT. This changed in 2004, when the firefighter had an eye exam during a routine medical screening. His vision was 20/200 in one eye and 20/100 in the other. The Assistant Chief immediately told the firefighter he was fired, but rescinded the order after the firefighter asked for a Veteran's Preference Hearing and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A month later, the firefighter was reassigned to "light duty" that caused a "substantial" reduction in pay, overtime and retirement benefits. The new job also was a "visually strenuous" audio-visual position in the training and development center of the department. After fighting the reassignments, the city terminated his employment for the fourth time in 2009. Two months after the termination, the state Department of Human Rights determined the city had engaged in "unlawful disability discrimination and retaliation". In July 2009, the city's Civil Service Commission also determined the city wasn't justified in terminating the firefighter, and he filed the lawsuit.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;">THE LAW &ndash; Under the current 2009 version of the American with Disabilities Act</span><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;"> (42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(A)(B)(C))</span><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;">for issues arising after January 2009, disabilities are defined as a</span><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;"> physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or a "record" of such a condition. The ADA also covers an individual who has been "regarded as" having a disability, which means that s/he was subjected to an allegedly discriminatory action because of an impairment (unless the impairment was minor and transitory). A major life activity can include:</span><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;"> walking, speaking, breathing, and hearing, seeing, thinking, sitting and standing among many other activities. As the law is generally silent to what defines a major life activity, the courts in their many discrimination cases are developing these lists. </span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;">The question that every fire department employer should ask when confronting a situation where an employee has an impairment that substantially limits a life activity is: does the individual with this disability have the background required for the job and can the employee perform the essential functions of the job, either, without any accommodation, or with a reasonable accommodation?&nbsp; The Employer should further inquire if the qualification standard screens out the individual because of their disability; is it "job-related and consistent with business necessity? In the fire service we should also determine whether continued performance under a reasonable accommodation standard, does the individual poses a direct threat to themselves or others. A direct threat is when an individual with a disability poses a significant risk of substantial harm to him/herself or others, and there is not a reasonable accommodation that would lower the risk of harm below that level.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;">The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided examples of conditions that are not impairments. For example, physical characteristics (such as left-handedness), common personality traits (such as irresponsibility, poor judgment, irritability and chronic lateness), cultural, environmental, or economic disadvantages, homosexuality, bisexuality, pregnancy, and normal deviations in height, weight or strength are not impairments. Courts however have found that a broad variety of conditions are impairments, for example:&nbsp; bad backs, bad knees, and migraine headaches are impairments. In most cases, an individual must request an accommodation if s/he wants one. The EEOC has stated that, in general, "it is the responsibility of the individual with a disability to inform the employer that an accommodation is needed." Therefore, most courts have held that an employer could not be liable for failing to provide an accommodation if the employee never asked for anything. Employers should be aware that some courts have said that if the employer knows about the disability and has reason to know of the need for accommodation, it may have an obligation to provide the accommodation -- even without an express request.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;">THE LESSON &ndash; The American with Disabilities Act is complex and bewildering and many attorneys not familiar with the nuances get lost in the interpretation of the tenants of the law. Here, however, the City and the fire department staff should have realized that the firefighter had a vision issue and should have taken EVERY PRECAUTION to ensure that the employee&rsquo;s rights were protected under the ADA and a reasonable accommodate be made in this case. It appeared that the shuffling of the firefighter to different assignments created this legal nightmare. Summary termination of an employee would violate most if not all of the bargaining rights of the employee and it was the wrong first move on the part of the Assistant Chief and the City. What should have happened is a careful reading of the ADA and its most recent update is to ensure that every step in reasonably accommodating the employee is made before the decision to terminate any employee. As this is a complex issue, there is not enough space to review every step of the process in this space but suffice it to say the lesson learned here is not to toss out an employee with a disability without a careful analysis of the disability and the potential for a reasonable accommodation. <o:p></o:p></span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 9pt; line-height: 150%;">Excerpts from: </span><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 9pt; line-height: 150%;">RESOLVING ADA WORKPLACE QUESTIONS. How Courts and Agencies are </span><span style="font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 9pt; line-height: 150%;">Dealing with Employment Issues. Thirty-First Edition by David K. Fram, ESQ. Director ADA &amp; EEO Services, National Employment Law Institute</span><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-4969228093666049682?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-49692280936660496822011-11-28T18:57:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:18.783ZLESSONS LEARNED FROM THE PENN STATE DEBACLEnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyI am all about letting someone else make the mistake and learn from those mistakes. Sometimes we need to fast-forward our thinking and project what can occur in our departments that will embarrass us. Today we have a major "Lessons Learned" event with Penn State.<br /><br /><br />I have been reading all I can about the big problems hammering Penn State, their alumni, their coaches and the integrity of the institution in this nightmare scenario. Let me say up front that society and a large institution failed to protect these children and they are the first thing that needs to be taken care and to prevent these issues from occurring in the future to other vulnerable children.<br /><br /><br />As most of you are well versed in the intimate and gross details of this issue if you read the newspapers and grand jury account including the recent idiotic "non-confession" interview of Sandusky by Bob Costas; what effect could this type of behavior by either members of the leadership team or firefighters have on your department? Fortunately, it appears that all of the colleges across the country are not painted with the same Penn State brush but it does call into question the moral character and integrity of large institutions when the attempt to resolve these situations internally involving burying the issue deep in the bowels of the institution.<br /><br /><br />Are these institutions so big, they can bury these issues and remain pristine in the public view? It appears that they do until the top of the volcano blows off and spews all of the dirty secrets held by those institutes for a long period of time. Let look at some fatal errors made by Penn State, its leadership and the mentality of big institutions and how they apply to the fire service<br /><br /><br />There is a fairly accurate timeline of the pedophile Sandusky described in the CNN Justice [1] and I urge you to look at the timeline to see how far back this actually goes. I am sure that the child psychologists and others dealing with pedophilia will tell you that this behavior goes back even further in Sandusky&rsquo;s life but has not been revealed at this time. In any event, we are now in the present time with numerous reports of inappropriate behavior involving a coach of a fine institution and children.<br /><br /><br />It appears by all accounts there is a massive failure at every level in the reporting, the investigation and early mitigation in 1998 of this issue from all levels to include:&nbsp; the promise by Sandusky not to repeat that behavior, the district attorney advises investigators that no charges will be filed and the university police chief instructs that the case be closed.&nbsp; The behavior repeats itself in 2000 and in 2002 with another young boy and a shower and some touching and observed sexual encounter on the campus. A graduate assistant coach observes this egregious behavior as well and reports it to Joe Paterno who reports it to his supervisor the President of the University and there it dies another untimely death. Now the judge who recently released Sandusky on an unsecured bond is a member of the board of directors for Sandusky&rsquo;s Foundation and the debacle continues.<br /><br /><br />What lessons can the fire service learn from this incident?<br /><br /><br />First, there is not institution, service or Fire Chief that is so big that bad behavior can be covered up. Second on these types of incidents the observing party should ALWAYS report this behavior directly to the local police for investigation and the accused firefighter of fire officer be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. Should these actions occur off duty, the rule should remain the same. Third, your institution SHOULD NOT condone institutional silence and we need transparency at all levels. At times the firefighters are their own worse enemy in not reporting bad behavior be it domestic violence, alcoholism or drug use. Eventually we are all tarnished by this broad brush and you can do more for the individual and your department by reporting it early and get the firefighter into treatment or other corrective actions. Finally, have a policy and an Honor Code that allows for the reporting of this behavior without backlash. Your institution needs to have an "eyes wide open" position on these issues and fire departments should consult with your legal counsel on the best way to create a policy for implementation and enforcement.<br /><br /><br />There are enough shenanigans going on currently in our service to include embezzlement, "mooning" of students, driving drunk and killing civilians by our firefighters and Fire Chiefs. You are not too big to fail and what we see is the leadership team disgraced, terminated and a dark shadow falling over our fire institution. We do not need this additional problem so clean up your house by acting appropriately, act quickly and decisively and protect our fragile institution. That is your job.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />[1] http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/16/justice/pennsylvania-coach-abuse-timeline/index.html<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-2584457052696772524?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-25844570526967725242011-11-17T23:20:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:18.908ZHow many politicians does it take to unscrew a light bulb?noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyYou think of this byline as a joke but the reality is there are far too many politicians who are willing to unscrew the &ldquo;light bulb of public service.&rdquo; Let&rsquo;s look at the havoc wrought on our service by the ignorant politicians who now have the fire service, EMS and police services in their budget bulls&rsquo; eye. I&rsquo;ll let my brother and sister cops speak for them selves as they have the guns and the political horsepower to minimize cuts to police services. Nuff said there.<br /><br />Back in the day when I was working the streets as a firefighter, we always said that it would take the injury or demise of a politician from a cardiac arrest or a house fire for them to take seriously the value of the community fire and EMS services. That of course never happened on my watch but you would wonder about the &ldquo;overwhelming&rdquo; support if a &ldquo;saved&rdquo; politician would rally to the side of public safety. <br /><br />Let&rsquo;s look at the recent cuts to public safety across the country. In Alameda: an individual drowned because the City cut the water rescue budget creating an embarrassment to the firefighters standing on the shore and to the new Fire Chief. Immediately the &ldquo;politicians&rdquo; found new money and put back into operation the water rescue program. As expected the mother of the deceased individual is suing the City and the Department for lots more money than it would have cost if the City maintained their program. <br /><br />In another recent example, the Fire Chief in Moline's (Ill) Fire Department has quit over the city's plans to make cuts to his department. Members of the Moline City Council considered options to make up for a $1.7 million deficit but ultimately decided not to raise property taxes, resulting in the loss of 12 Emergency Medical Services positions. Officials say they'll look for a private company to handle those services. OMG, now the private sector is part of that &ldquo;cost savings&rdquo;. What do those politicians think about the loss of 12 firefighters? Not much apparently but will soon realize that the &ldquo;service standards&rdquo; have been severely compromised by their short sighted actions. Time will tell on this one and other similar situations across the country. <br /><br />Researching this topic to add some punch to the impact this is having on our services, even some of our Fire Chiefs and mayors are quoted as saying from - www.firefighterclosecalls.com<br /><br />* "Every single community here would feel that pain some time." "Each neighborhood will get to see if they're feeling lucky on a given day. That's the way it needs to be done." What the hell, is the mayor Dirty Harry looking to &ldquo;make my day&rdquo; or &ldquo;are you feeling lucky today, punk?&rdquo;<br /><br />* Fire Chief Vows That Budget Cuts Won't Deplete Services- - - - - -<br /> <br />* The Mayor said that he does not think the City needs X number of firehouses. &ldquo;I have never seen a firehouse put out a fire,&rdquo; he said. But if one of them had to be closed, The Mayor says he'd recommend shutting down a different one each week on a rotating basis -- something he calls "firehouse roulette."<br /><br />* Fire Chief insists that the layoffs and aging equipment don't mean that service will be reduced. The Chief said that he has been in departments with three times the manpower as his current one, but that manpower does not in itself prevent tragedy. &ldquo;People will die no matter how many firefighters you have.&rdquo; I say Chief &ndash; find another line of work because this job is not for you. <br /><br />All of these quotes and hundreds more, I say REALLY?? Are the Fire Chief&rsquo;s holding the ladders for the politicians while they &ldquo;unscrew the light bulb? <br /><br />In some communities Fire Chief&rsquo;s are &ldquo;talking the political talk&rdquo; because it saves their jobs. The reality is that with the exception of the Moline Fire Chief, most of the other Chiefs are complicit in this egregious behavior or are biding their time waiting for a change in political leadership. <br /><br />I do not advocate leaving your job as it is better to work within the system to change the system<br /><br />Occasionally we need to run and win those political offices to get some &ldquo;firefighter brains&rdquo; on the councils or commissions. In today&rsquo;s political environment they really are tossing out the &ldquo;baby with the bathwater&rdquo; and unfortunately we are the baby in that scenario. <br /><br />OK for the rest of the Joke &ndash; how many does it take? &ldquo;Only one - to keep the citizens and firefighters in the dark&rdquo; Pretty stupid huh? <br /><br />Brothers and Sisters, lets get active at the political level to prevent that one politician from unscrewing the public safety light bulb. We deserve better and so does your community. <br /><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-5445307016462334969?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-54453070164623349692011-10-21T03:33:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:19.095ZDEEP BORE Tunneling Projects – Decompression Injury Managementnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyDEEP BORE Tunneling Projects -- Decompression Injury Management<br /><br />I usually do not write about medical issues in this blog. However, this is a great article about decompression injuries and some considerations related to these projects. This is an excerpt of a longer article which is found at Hamilton RW, Kay E. Boring Deep Tunnels. In: Proceedings, Third Conference of U.S.-Japan Panel on Aerospace-Diving Physiology & Technology, and Hyperbaric Medicine. 2008 November. Nakatsu, Japan.<br /><br />Deep Boring Projects. Firefighters who manage injuries deep underground, this decompression issue should be at the forefront of your differential diagnosis and treatment for the injured worker. In many cities across the United States, the process of digging tunnels deep underground has changed in the last three decades, due largely to the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). This has revolutionized the compressed air mining and tunneling industry, creating a whole new world for the emergency responder. The TBM consists of a circular, rotating, cutting head or face, which may be from 5 to more than 10 metres in diameter. This is pushed forward as it cuts, while a tunnel is cemented behind it. The modern pressure-shielded TBM allows compressed air workers to work most of the time in a relatively safe one-atmosphere environment behind the face. Occasional excursions (interventions) into the pressurized head space through a man-lock are performed to service the cutter head. These interventions may involve only two or three workers at a time and may last minutes to a few hours, in sharp contrast to the traditional &ldquo;sand hog&rdquo; operation where dozens of workers worked shifts as long as could be managed within a normal work day. Tunnel and caisson work in the old days involved hordes of sandhogs, digging with the muscles of their shoulders and backs. The image that should come to mind is that of the Brooklyn Bridge, which left its engineer a cripple due to decompression issues. Decompression is still a major factor in tunnel and caisson work.<br /><br />Categorically, compressed air environment work has caused a lot of injury. Digging was being done using remotely controlled tools. Workers only entered the caisson pressure when repair was needed. Workers had to enter pressure only when something went wrong or changes were needed. There were few workers under pressure, but because of archaic rules they still had to decompress in many cases without benefit of oxygen.<br /><br />Another fundamental new development is the extensive use of oxygen. Oxygen breathing on the job site is limited in some international jurisdictions, but there is no doubt that oxygen can greatly improve both the speed and the reliability of decompression and its use requires following well-established safety procedures. Tunnel Boring Machine depths may exceed the narcotic limits for effective work using air as a breathing gas, so TBM operators may use breathing mixtures containing non-narcotic helium. Wide experience with such mixtures in deep sea diving is finding its way into tunneling practice. Modern TBM techniques allow work at pressures much greater than those considered normal for traditional compressed air methods, and as a result the rules and requirements may not be appropriate. <br /><br />It is generally not necessary to tell workers and first responders about the benefits of breathing oxygen during decompression. Oxygen makes decompression a great deal more reliable&mdash;&ldquo;safer&rdquo; if one wants to use that term&mdash;with far less decompression sickness and the subtle subclinical disturbances that may have lasting effects but that seldom get treated. Among these decompression disorders is aseptic bone necrosis, also known as dysbaric osteonecrosis since it is caused by changes in pressure. Decompression with oxygen is much faster and therefore less expensive. In the USA not only is oxygen not allowed, but the decompression tables required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are not at all adequate at the higher pressures, leading to substantial incidents of dysbaric osteonecrosis on the workers and quite possibly the rescuers. <br /><br />Oxygen is not without its price. For one, there is the fire risk, which is the main reason oxygen has been prohibited. But compressed air alone, even without extra oxygen, increases the fire risk; this is well known in the compressed air community. Dealing with oxygen requires proper training, an overboard dump system for the breathing masks, and continuous on-line oxygen analysis in order to make it safe. Even long exposures to continuous oxygen can create lung <br /><br />Many individual factors affect the susceptibility of an individual to decompression sickness. One main factor is acclimatization. Compressed air workers who have been exposed regularly are more tolerant of decompression. In Navy diving this is called &ldquo;work up.&rdquo; It has been found to be a major factor in both tolerances of compressed air exposures and of dives. On some deep bore and caisson jobs there is the use of helium as &ldquo;trimix&rdquo;. Helium has been used as a component of deep sea divers&rsquo; breathing gas in commercial and in military diving for well over half a century. There are two main reasons: Helium is lighter and easier to breathe, but its main benefit is that it does not cause narcosis. While a diver can do simple work while breathing air at pressures up to 7 or so bars, at greater than about 4 bars memory and the ability to do detailed work or multi-tasking can be severely impaired. In recent years high-end recreational divers have begun using helium to reduce narcosis in the form of an oxygen-helium-nitrogen &ldquo;trimix&rdquo; for diving beyond about 4 bars.<br /><br />On a job and when an intervention is needed a team of 2 or 3 workers transfers into a &ldquo;man lock&rdquo; which is in the corner of the machine room. The lock is pressurized to the pressure of the machine room and the workers transfer through the lock into the machine room. Sometimes the intervention is to do work on the machinery, but when work in front of the face is needed the team enters the face area through a door in the face. They may be wet, but with this arrangement they are normally not totally immersed. Once work is complete the workers transfer back into the machine room, where they clean off and transfer into the man lock. The hatch is sealed and they begin the proper decompression profile for their exposure.<br /><br />What does this mean to the first responder? First it is IMPERATIVE that the fire department is on the front end of the emergency response plan for these projects. Second, going in after injured workers requires and intense pre-training period and equipment. It is important that if your department is asked to be the first responder for illness or accidents at these Deep Bore projects that the lead engineering or contractor organization provides adequate money, resource and equipment for your departments training and response. You may be asking for over one hundred thousand dollars to put this all together depending on the depth and duration of the project as this is a super confined space response. Look to other departments for technical assistance. Do not sign on as the first responder without the adequate resources required for these rescue efforts. There must be daily training to become familiar with the equipment, the depth the challenges the construction staff and you may see if there is a medical specialist available to assist in the response and the training. It is equally important to know where your closest hyperbaric chamber is located and their availability; for example 24 hour availability. Here in the Seattle area there are a few chambers located at the hospitals and at the Navy base. ARE there similar resources close to your agency?<br /><br />This challenge is an interesting twist in emergency service response and what we may be called on to manage. It&rsquo;s important that we are well trained and prepared or we may find ourselves in the decompression chamber as well as your patient.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-4771394989092288757?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-87141467404857766122011-10-06T22:32:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:19.235ZFire Chief Liabilities &ndash; what are they and some prevention tips?noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. Murphy NEWS FLASH - Attendance at an educational seminar resulted in a Fire Chief resigning from his position due to his fear that he would be held personally liable for actions taken on behalf of the fire department. Shocking! Shocking? It would appear that this chief had an irrational fear of litigation and we all like to think that we are immune from such litigation but a recent web search on the topic reveals that fire chiefs should be aware of the potential for litigation involving them as a named defendant. So let&rsquo;s divide this into two sections. The first is your actual liabilities. Some Fire Chiefs pull the trigger on themselves. Examples are theft from the department (numerous examples here), sexual harassment and sexual assault where the Chief is the antagonist; breach of fiduciary duty; failure to comply with state and federal safety standards; failure to abide by the NFPA standards (see Alan Baird in New York convicted in a firefighter death during a training exercise); willful failure to enforce regulations; willful failure to provide services (see Fire chief loses motion to dismiss in $6 million suit over death of pregnant woman denied ambulance service Re. Pettee v. Hulett, U.S. Dist. Ct. (N.D. Ill. 1975). Also listed is a failure to provide a safe working environment; a working environment free from discrimination and harassment or to respond to complaints of such behavior. There are many more examples but in the interest of your time and space let&rsquo;s move on to the good part. Then let&rsquo;s look at your actual immunities. You have a qualified immunity against litigation related to the nature of your job as a public service governmental employee. This protection evaporates in willful or wanton conduct or gross negligence. You have immunity against negligent conduct if you are administering under a discretionary duty as opposed to a ministerial duty. Now you are asking what the difference is. A discretionary duty is defined as "one requiring the exercise of judgment in its performance, in contrast to a ministerial duty, which is one where nothing is left to discretion--a simple and definite duty, imposed by law, and arising under conditions admitted or proved to exist. Another was to describe this is discretionary acts are those where an individual official has been given some power to decide what action to take whereas ministerial actions are those where &ldquo;the law prescribes and defines the duty to be performed with such precision and certainty as to leave nothing to the exercise of discretion or judgment.&rdquo; Fire Chiefs are often protected by official immunity if their decisions or actions cause harm but meet certain criteria, including that the duty was &ldquo;discretionary&rdquo; and not &ldquo;ministerial.&rdquo; These determinations are made on a case by case basis. Usually Fire Chiefs are sued when an action or decision they make injures a person or their property or violates some civil right such as freedom of speech or right to due process. Remember that these actions, if not willful, wanton or grossly negligent or the Fire Chief is the perpetrator of egregious actions comes immunities that protect them if their actions or decisions meet criteria. Also remember that a lawsuit against you as the fire chief in your official capacity of a public official is considered a suit against your governmental entity as well. These suits are unlikely to lead to personal liability on your part. Common causes of action against fire chiefs and their elected or appointed bosses include torts, Section 1983 claims, and other actions that allege a violation of a property or civil right. Section 1983 is a federal law that gives individuals the right to sue the government when the government violates some constitutional right. Ok, now that we have stirred the mud a little bit, what can you do to prevent lawsuits against you and your department? Quite simply do the right thing at the right time; make the right decisions based on the best interest of your firefighters safety and community; understand the law and if in doubt consult with your departments legal counsel; do not harm your reputation by stealing or engaging in unethical conduct; have a high moral and ethical standard and finally do the right thing and do not tolerate wrongdoing by members of your department. Yes you may be sued, but if you can sleep at night and you are not developing an ulcer, you are probably doing the right thing. PLEASE do not resign. You are a valuable asset to your community. <div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-4237418881275437607?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-42374188812754376072011-09-23T22:07:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:19.516ZLitigation Forcing Diversity - 2011noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyReturning from FRI in Atlanta and making a few presentations related to Diversity and Inclusiveness and sitting on a couple of panels to articulate the issues related to Diversity and Inclusiveness I wonder if we are &ldquo;getting the message on Diversity and Inclusiveness&rdquo;. When looking around the classroom, those in the class &ldquo;get it&rdquo; and although I like speaking to them, I would rather speak to those Chiefs who &ldquo;don&rsquo;t get it.&rdquo; Which one are you? Let&rsquo;s look to see who gets it and who doesn&rsquo;t. <br /><br />Of the thirty thousand (30,000) or so fire departments across the country, when you look to those who &ldquo;get it&rdquo;; you never see their names captioned in litigation, so I for one would believe that you are the majority. Those are departments that have diversity and inclusiveness programs, have open and unbiased hiring and promotional practices and are proactive in their efforts to make the department reflect the community. <br /><br />Let&rsquo;s look at those who may not get it and in this series I am picking on a couple of large cities whose example can be replicated in many smaller cities across the country.<br /><br />OK, here are a few recent and not so recent legal cases only skimming the surface as we can spend pages and hours with those cases. Let&rsquo;s take the not so recent Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658, 2671, 174 L. Ed. 2d 490, a 2009 reverse discrimination case. The City of New Haven hired some outside experts to design a promotional test for its fire officers to include a written and oral. The test was &ldquo;designed&rdquo; to be a comprehensive written test but when not enough black firefighters passed the test, the City of New Haven tossed the results fearing a lawsuit by the black firefighters. Surprisingly, it was the white firefighters who sued based on a reverse discrimination principle. As we are aware, the courts found for the white firefighters and promotions and back pay were awarded. The saga continues however with a recent suit filed by one of the black firefighter, involved in the original testing, against the City of New Haven. In his case, the firefighter sued New Haven for disparate-impact liability, the type of lawsuit that the city had anticipated and hoped to avoid by tossing the original results. That case has not been resolved as yet.<br /><br />In yet another large case, a federal judge in August 2011 ordered the City of Chicago in Lewis v. Chicago, 08-974 to hire more than 100 African-Americans as firefighters with back pay and pension payments and pay thousands of other firefighters not hired cash payments, as part of a settlement. This decision stems from a discrimination lawsuit, which has been fought for the last 13 years involving about 6,000 African-Americans who took the entry-level firefighters exam in 1995 and successfully argued they were discriminated against. This settlement also has a $30 million dollar settlement attached to it in pensions and damages to those firefighters - money the City will be hard pressed to find in its budget. The attorneys arguing this case before the Supreme Court Mr. John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc stated. "This victory goes well beyond the immediate results in Chicago. It should ensure that no other fire department or employer uses a discriminatory test, and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund will go the extra mile to make sure that they do not." <br /><br />That sounds hopeful but in practice, we have not seen the light at the end of this discrimination tunnel. <br /><br />In a separate Chicago litigation, the City was sued July 2011 by a woman firefighter who filed on behalf of women who were disqualified because they failed the firefighter&rsquo;s physical abilities test. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court claims the test, which includes arm exercises, carrying a 2 1/2-inch hose and stair-climbing tasks designed to determine strength and endurance, has an adverse impact on female applicants and is not related to the skills needed to be a firefighter. For many women, physical abilities tests have been the major barrier keeping them from becoming firefighters. While firefighter exams have long been controversial in departments across the country, Chicago has become latest target in a legal battle over whether the test discriminates against women. The City of Chicago hired a private company to develop and administer its Physical Abilities Test, which differs from the widely used Candidate Physical Ability Test, created by the International Association of Fire Fighters. Critic&rsquo;s claim Chicago's test has no uniform standards, is administered inconsistently and requires tasks that are not needed to be a firefighter. The lawsuit challenging Chicago's test alleging that it is unfair to women, who fail the test at a disproportionate rate than men. The suit, which seeks class action status, claims that the test places too much emphasis on strength, rather than firefighting skills, and that there are more equitable tests available that the city has declined to adopt. A similar lawsuit filed in 2008 by women who were denied paramedics jobs after failing a physical abilities test also is pending. This was a topic of discussion on Fire Engineering&rsquo;s Fire Service Court Blog Talk Radio on August 17, 2011<br /><br />And last by no means the least, in 2010 a Judge was lambasting the City of New York for their &ldquo;discriminatory&rdquo; hiring practices. Federal District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis in United States of America and the Vulcans Society, Inc. v. City of New York (Case No. CV 07 2067) issued a scathing ruling in the ongoing case against the City of New York and the Fire Department for its discriminatory hiring practices. Saying, &ldquo;The City&rsquo;s shifting and contradictory positions have needlessly diverted the parties from the critical work of developing a new examination,&rdquo; the judge enjoined the City from hiring off the last exam in any way except for the five non-discriminatory options he had presented in his September 13, 2010 decision. As of this writing the City has not hired any new firefighters.<br /><br />What am I trying to say here? We had better &ldquo;get it&rdquo; or your department will be having attorneys and judges performing your firefighter hiring. There are numerous examples in case law of what went wrong and it doesn&rsquo;t take a lawyer to tell you how it should be done in your department. I have to say however, that many of these departments have hired experts to design and administer the testing in many of the large cities. As an &ldquo;expert&rdquo; myself, my only advice is to ensure that your testing procedures do not violate current laws, they are not discriminatory and they do not exclude those firefighter candidates reflecting the makeup of your community. <br /><br />Sources: Numerous newspaper articles, Wikipedia, PACER, Case Law, Google and other sources.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-8463195488758053972?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-84631954887580539722011-09-07T22:18:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:19.703ZLeadership Styles &ndash; things our firefighters want and don&rsquo;t want from our leadership.noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyAs a chief officer I learned my management style initially as a follower then from the seat of my pants and by observing and working under a variety of leadership styles in my and 38 years in a uniform, 32 of those years in the fire service. In addition to my military service, I am proud to say that I worked for five (yes 5) fire departments in my career and seven (7) fire chiefs, some of them two times in different departments. In my observations of the good and bad in leadership I tried to take the best of the good and learned from the bad to determine my leadership style. I also read a lot to determine what works and what does not work for leaders in the fire service. In one of my experiences, I learned that leading firefighters is akin to herding cats. As long as you get them moving in the right direction you are doing pretty darn good. Cats, like firefighters, don&rsquo;t want to get bunched up; they like to take the lead and just when you don&rsquo;t expect it they scatter. <br /><br />I also learned that less is more. There is a balance to this equation as it will take a large time commitment to make an impact when you are new to an organization. As a new leader you need to demonstrate your leadership style and consistency, and over time when you will see natural leaders emerge from your organization you can step back a bit and guide those natural leaders to greatness. I also learned that you have to show up for work every day. Absent leadership only causes problems for the chief and the department. It&rsquo;s not to say your staff and line officers can&rsquo;t to the job, it&rsquo;s different if you are not doing the job. The department hired you to lead not to be absent. In my experience the department never benefits from an absent leader. <br /><br />I also experienced and read that firefighters want inspiring leadership, quiet problem solving and compassion from their leadership. How do we balance all of those traits and ensure that our departments are moving in the right direction and that you have followers. We have several inspiring leaders in our service (don&rsquo;t want to name them all lest they all get a big head) and the best of the best get their jobs accomplished with the minimum of fuss and noise but with a lot of hard work. The noisy ones usually get fired as they are generally incompetent leaving one to wonder what will be my leadership style when the time comes for me to be the leader. <br /><br />We also have to realize that different employees crave different things from their leaders and supervisors. As many flavors of ice cream as there are at Ben and Jerry&rsquo;s, are about how many different cravings we have for different leadership styles. For example there are employees that want a hands-on Chief who stops by with &ldquo;what&rsquo;s up or how are you doing&rdquo; and sit for a time in the beanery. Other firefighters do not care if they ever see the fire chief but complain that they never have seen the fire chief when there is trouble in our station or in the department. Unless you are a psychic, it's nearly impossible to know exactly what your staff wants from you. Leadership needs to be observant, insightful and sometimes intuitive. <br /><br />How does one resolve this conundrum? In a survey of employees with results published in What People Want, by Terry Bacon provides some insight as to what really matters to employees and in turn our firefighters. Of the 9 things employees wanted from their leaders and managers, they wanted:<br /><br /> Honesty whereas most surveyed, over 90% say they want honesty and integrity from their manager. Lies and secrets are the biggest killers to credibility.<br /> A nearly equal amount (89%) want their manager to be fair and to hold all employees accountable to the same standards.<br /> Trust. More than 86% want to trust-and be trusted by-their manager.<br /> 84% want to respect-and be respected by-their manager.<br /> Dependability. 81% say they want to be able to count on their manager when needed.<br /> Collaboration. 77% want to be a part of their manager's team and be asked to contribute ideas and solutions. Shutting employees out will shut them up-and send them shipping out.<br /> Genuineness. 76% want their manager to be a genuine person. Employees sometimes spend more time with their boss than with their families-they don't want a phony.<br /> Appreciation. 74% want their manager to appreciate them for who they are and what they do. When was the last time you handed out a "Thank you!" or "Great job!" to employees?<br /> Responsiveness. 74% want their manager to listen, understand and respond. Be a sponge, not a brick wall.<br /><br />In the same survey there were also things not needed by the employees:<br /><br /> Friendship. Only 3% want their manager to be a friend. As in parenting, it's more important to be a leader, mentor and example than a buddy.<br /> Conversation. Only 14% want to have interesting conversations with their manager.<br /> Touchy feely TLC. 24% say they want their manager to "care for them." That doesn't mean you have to be cold and detached, but most employees aren't looking for a best friend in their boss.<br /> Emotional support. 25% want emotional support from their manager. Employees typically look for that among co-workers rather than a boss.<br /> Cheerfulness. Only 28% want a cheerful or happy manager. They'd rather respect you than like you.<br /><br />Emergent Situations - It&rsquo;s important to realize these needs by the employees and some insight by our leadership to recognize the needs of the firefighters. There are times in emergency situations where the leadership rubber hits the road as it comes to leadership and DIRECTNESS but those issues should be addressed in training sessions long before the emergency happens so there is not a lot of huggy- feely discussions about how are we going to fight this fire or perform the rescue. <br /><br />Your firefighters also respect when the leader provides praise in a public setting, discipline in private; confidentiality; competency, and approachability. <br /><br />Keep your firefighters engaged in projects. I have had firefighters come to work and go home after the shift contributing nothing the improvement of the department. I have also found out that these same firefighters have a wealth of knowledge in journalism, advanced mountain climbing skills, rope handling skills, they raise and train search dogs, they are off duty medical practitioners and attorneys. When asked why they never participated in department activities, they responded in unison, NOBODY ASKED US. You have got to keep your firefighters engaged in the activities of the department as bored firefighters are neither happy nor productive and sometimes get into trouble. To keep your firefighters involved and satisfied, challenge them with assignments and opportunities to learn, grow and develop and seek out those firefighters who never &ldquo;volunteer&rdquo; to do those projects. All they want is to be asked. <br /><br />Finally, leaders need to lead by example not only in your professional life but your personal life. Firefighters are ALWAYS watching you and your leadership team and you need to set a good example for your firefighters to follow. You should be looking for and grooming the next generation of leadership n your department and it is imperative that you set the example of how that next generation of leadership should lead. <br /><br />Leadership is neither intuitive nor natural. You have to work hard to be a leader watching and observing other great leaders, go to school and get educated, read all that you can on leadership and experiencing challenges and difficult situations before you get good at leadership. You will also have to develop your own style as well. I know of no fire chief who all of sudden said, &ldquo;I know everything there is to know in my occupation.&rdquo; First of all you don&rsquo;t, second, you are deceiving yourself and if you take that position you should retire because you have stopped learning and are now in the way of successive leaders. You cannot clone another leadership style so prepare for the long haul in your quest for leadership. <br /><br />Have fun and be safe<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-6240386175929655348?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-62403861759296553482011-08-03T23:02:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:19.844ZSupervisors Animus &ndash; Aesop&rsquo;s Fable, USERRA and the Fire Servicenoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyWhile perusing the legal network I came upon this case discussed by a Connecticut Law Firm and published in their Newsletter. <br /><br />One of Aesop&rsquo;s most memorable fables, &ldquo;The Monkey and the Cat,&rdquo; tells the story of a monkey who convinces a cat to pull roasting chestnuts from a fire. The cat retrieves the chestnuts, but in doing so, burns his paws. Meanwhile, the monkey scampers away with the chestnuts, leaving the cat with nothing.<br /><br />So what do monkeys, cats, and white-hot chestnuts have to do with employer liability? <br /><br />In Staub v. Proctor Hospital, the U.S. Supreme Court uses the term &ldquo;cat&rsquo;s paw&rdquo; to describe an employment law situation where an employer unknowingly makes an adverse employment decision based on a supervisor&rsquo;s unlawful animus. In such a scenario, the employer serves as the cat&rsquo;s paw,&rdquo; the instrument through which the monkey, (in this case, the supervisor), can exercise his animus without getting burned. In Staub, the plaintiff employee worked as an angiography technician for the hospital. The plaintiff was also a member of the United States Army Reserve, which required him to train one weekend a month, in addition to full-time training two to three weeks a year.<br /><br />Two of hospital&rsquo;s other employees, Staub&rsquo;s supervisor&rsquo;s &ldquo;were hostile to Staub&rsquo;s military obligations.&rdquo; This hostility prompted the supervisors to issue Staub disciplinary warnings for violating nonexistent company rules, warnings that were placed in Staub&rsquo;s personnel file, and used as a basis to terminate Staub&rsquo;s employment with the hospital. Relying on these allegations, the hospital&rsquo;s vice president of human resources, decided to fire Staub. <br /><br />In response, Staub sued the hospital under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), claiming that his discharge was &ldquo;motivated by hostility toward his obligations as a military reservist.&rdquo; Yet, as the Court noted, Staub&rsquo;s contention was not that &ldquo;the HR Director had any such hostility, but that his supervisors did, and that their actions influenced the HR Director&rsquo;s ultimate employment decision.&rdquo; <br /><br />Holding that a &ldquo;cat&rsquo;s paw&rdquo; case could not &ldquo;succeed unless the non-decision maker exercised such &lsquo;singular influence&rsquo; over the decision maker that the decision to terminate was the product of &lsquo;blind reliance,&rdquo; the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the hospital. <br /><br />However, The Supreme Court, reversed this decision, holding that, if a supervisor performs an act motivated by antimilitary animus &ldquo;that is intended to cause an adverse employment action, and if that is a proximate cause of the ultimate employment action, then the employer, then the employer is liable under USERRA.&rdquo; <br /><br />So how is this recent &ldquo;cat&rsquo;s paw&rdquo; case going to affect employers like your fire department? First, the cat&rsquo;s paw principle established in the Staub decision is likely to be applied to other, similar claims of animus. Second, it is clear that simply conducting an &ldquo;independent investigation&rdquo; is not sufficient to protect employers from such claims. It is imperative that employers have an employee handbook which addresses discipline and discharge policies also to include managing the time off of your reservist employees under USERRA. It is also important to understand that during termination events, if you are the &ldquo;cat&rsquo;s paw&rdquo; please understand all of the background on a termination recommendation so you don&rsquo;t get burned. <br /><br />Source - Law of the Workplace - June 2011 SIEGEL, O&rsquo;CONNOR, O&rsquo;DONNELL & BECK, P.C. Newsletter. Connecticut<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-1923851473815693711?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-19238514738156937112011-07-14T20:22:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:20.000ZGreat product for communicating with your non-english speaking EMS patientsnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyEvery once in a while there is an innovative product on the market that can make a great difference in communicating with your non-english speaking EMS patients. <br /><br />This is where InDemand Interpreting can assist your crews in making sure the information from you patients is correct and accurate so you can provide the right treatment modalities. <br /><br />If interested look up INDEMAND INTERPRETING at http://indemandinterpreting.com <br /><br />or contact Daniel Pirestani, CEO at 509.470.0854<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-143745462214454669?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-1437454622144546692011-07-10T22:28:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:20.171ZMore on Social Media &ndash; National Labor Relations Board protects trash talking your supervisor under a protected speech analysis.noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyIn October 2010 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had issued a complaint against American Medical Response (AMR) for disciplining an employee because she posted insulting remarks about her supervisor on her Facebook page. The NLRB and AMR settled the case prior to the court date but left a lot on the table as to the impact for employers. Although there were a couple of other issues involved like the right of representation for the employee, the big question is: Is it a permissible activity to trash talk about your boss on your Facebook or Twitter page? In certain cases, apparently it IS permissible as the NLRB has been sending a strong message to affected employers in the form of complaints to those employers disciplining employees using their personal social media sites as a forum for discussion about the workplace. In essence the NLRB decision compared these postings to &ldquo;water cooler&rdquo; talk and is protected speech. <br /><br />Social Media is a whole new ballgame as it comes to protected speech and the activities of members in a union. Since the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act, employees have had the right to engage in concerted activity and to discuss the terms and conditions of employment without retribution from their employers. Those rights include discussion about the terms and conditions of employment wages, benefits, working hours and working conditions. Under the most recent precedent setting NLRB ruling includes the right to complain about supervisors and managers as a protected activity. <br /><br />While employee rights have not changed much, social media has added a completely new dimension to the ability to have a &ldquo;water cooler&rdquo; discussion about workplace issues including supervisors in a new forum. Employees, and unions, have streamed to social media and unions are using social media to help organizing campaigns, and employees are using social media for just about everything. Just look at the recent events in the Middle East and how social media has galvanized millions of citizens in those countries to revolt against their leadership. Hopefully that will not be the case here in the US but in essence, employers are having a difficult time in keeping up with the social media technology and its impact on the workplace. As a result of the NLRB decision, conversations that used to occur in the break room and tavern now take place on Facebook or via Twitter and have a very wide audience. When these discussions are offensive or disparaging towards the organization or a particular supervisor, employers often want to take action by using discipline those employees whose comments demonstrate a lack of professionalism or violate employer policies. <br /><br />The NLRB is also willing to look at both sides of the issue and in a recent Arizona ruling, the NLRB dismissed a complaint involving an employee termination because the employee's inappropriate tweets did not involve the terms and conditions of employment and therefore, were not "protected activity" under the Act. <br /><br />The NLRB is not afraid to intervene on these social media violations and the NLRB decisions affect most if not all employers and it is incumbent on an employer to have a well crafted policy regulating the use of Social media both on and off duty. Remember that only certain activity is protected by the Act, not all employee social media activity is protected. <br /><br />A few rules related to the organization and personal use of Social Media as propounded by my good friend and legal colleague Steve Wirth with Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC should be followed rigorously. <br /><br />Those are:<br /><br />1. Don't post inappropriate pictures or images<br />2. Don&rsquo;t link your work activities to your Facebook postings. For example letting people know that you are a firefighter with ABC Fire Department and proceed to trash talk the Chief, elected officials or other firefighters. Safety yes, trash no.<br />3. Don't complain about your job, supervisors, or co-workers in a public forum <br />These comments reflect poorly on you, the organization, and the persons that you criticize. Negative and derogatory comments may also lead to claims of defamation and slander. <br />4. Don't post inappropriate "statuses" Avoid any status updates that discuss patient care situations, your department, or other staff members, or that may implicate unprofessional conduct. <br />5. Be particular about your "friends" and associations. You can't control what your friends post to your profile (although you can remove it once you see it), nor what they post to their own profiles or to those of mutual friends. <br /> 6. Check your privacy and security settings and know their rules. Privacy and security settings on social networking sites can be confusing and hard to deal with. It is now possible to customize lists of friends and decide what each list can and cannot see. <br />7. Consider establishing a "professional" profile page<br />8. Don't use social networking while engaged in patient care or work activities. Access to social networking sites on your personal device should only occur in absolute down time as you would use a personal cell phone when on duty (if this is permitted by your agency). It is inappropriate to post statuses or to view social networking profiles while with a patient or engaged in company work activity. <br />9. Don't misrepresent yourself or others. You should be careful that what you post about your training and education is accurate and consistent with information you have given to your employer. <br />10. Be who you are. Some posters and bloggers work anonymously, using false screen names. That is usually not a good idea. Transparency and honesty are the best policies to follow. Hiding behind a "handle" name may embolden you to post things you would not ordinarily post (and against your better judgment!). <br />11. Respect copyright and fair use laws. For your employer's protection as well as your own, it is critical that you respect laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others, including your department or agency's copyrights, logos or images. Use citations early and often.<br /><br />Finally - There will be more violations using this form of media currently occurring across the nation and the Attorneys and the NLRB will be right there to protect your rights or to release you to the wolves to suffer the penalties or inappropriate postings. A word of caution related to posting medical information about your EMS patients on Facebook or other media sites. Violating HIPAA laws can be similar to unleashing a nuclear bomb on your career and finances. The feds are starting to sharpen their litigation knives on the big players that violate HIPPA like CVS Caremark who were tossing patient&rsquo;s written prescriptions in the dumpster for all to see. They were fined over $2 million dollars for that infraction and the hunt is on for HIPAA violators. Beware.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-3612866425115308691?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-36128664251153086912011-06-28T14:32:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:20.312ZMore on Social Media – National Labor Relations Board protects trash talking your supervisor under a protected speech analysis.noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyIn October 2010 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had issued a complaint against American Medical Response (AMR) for disciplining an employee because she posted insulting remarks about her supervisor on her Facebook page. The NLRB and AMR settled the case prior to the court date but left a lot on the table as to the impact for employers. Although there were a couple of other issues involved like the right of representation for the employee, the big question is: Is it a permissible activity to trash talk about your boss on your Facebook or Twitter page? In certain cases, apparently it IS permissible as the NLRB has been sending a strong message to affected employers in the form of complaints to those employers disciplining employees using their personal social media sites as a forum for discussion about the workplace. In essence the NLRB decision compared these postings to “water cooler” talk and is protected speech. <br /><br />Social Media is a whole new ballgame as it comes to protected speech and the activities of members in a union. Since the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act, employees have had the right to engage in concerted activity and to discuss the terms and conditions of employment without retribution from their employers. Those rights include discussion about the terms and conditions of employment wages, benefits, working hours and working conditions. Under the most recent precedent setting NLRB ruling includes the right to complain about supervisors and managers as a protected activity. <br /><br />While employee rights have not changed much, social media has added a completely new dimension to the ability to have a “water cooler” discussion about workplace issues including supervisors in a new forum. Employees, and unions, have streamed to social media and unions are using social media to help organizing campaigns, and employees are using social media for just about everything. Just look at the recent events in the Middle East and how social media has galvanized millions of citizens in those countries to revolt against their leadership. Hopefully that will not be the case here in the US but in essence, employers are having a difficult time in keeping up with the social media technology and its impact on the workplace. As a result of the NLRB decision, conversations that used to occur in the break room and tavern now take place on Facebook or via Twitter and have a very wide audience. When these discussions are offensive or disparaging towards the organization or a particular supervisor, employers often want to take action by using discipline those employees whose comments demonstrate a lack of professionalism or violate employer policies. <br /><br />The NLRB is also willing to look at both sides of the issue and in a recent Arizona ruling, the NLRB dismissed a complaint involving an employee termination because the employee's inappropriate tweets did not involve the terms and conditions of employment and therefore, were not "protected activity" under the Act. <br /><br />The NLRB is not afraid to intervene on these social media violations and the NLRB decisions affect most if not all employers and it is incumbent on an employer to have a well crafted policy regulating the use of Social media both on and off duty. Remember that only certain activity is protected by the Act, not all employee social media activity is protected. <br /><br />A few rules related to the organization and personal use of Social Media as propounded by my good friend and legal colleague Steve Wirth with Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC should be followed rigorously. <br /><br />Those are:<br /><br />1. Don't post inappropriate pictures or images<br />2. Don’t link your work activities to your Facebook postings. For example letting people know that you are a firefighter with ABC Fire Department and proceed to trash talk the Chief, elected officials or other firefighters. Safety yes, trash no.<br />3. Don't complain about your job, supervisors, or co-workers in a public forum <br />These comments reflect poorly on you, the organization, and the persons that you criticize. Negative and derogatory comments may also lead to claims of defamation and slander. <br />4. Don't post inappropriate "statuses" Avoid any status updates that discuss patient care situations, your department, or other staff members, or that may implicate unprofessional conduct. <br />5. Be particular about your "friends" and associations. You can't control what your friends post to your profile (although you can remove it once you see it), nor what they post to their own profiles or to those of mutual friends. <br /> 6. Check your privacy and security settings and know their rules. Privacy and security settings on social networking sites can be confusing and hard to deal with. It is now possible to customize lists of friends and decide what each list can and cannot see. <br />7. Consider establishing a "professional" profile page<br />8. Don't use social networking while engaged in patient care or work activities. Access to social networking sites on your personal device should only occur in absolute down time as you would use a personal cell phone when on duty (if this is permitted by your agency). It is inappropriate to post statuses or to view social networking profiles while with a patient or engaged in company work activity. <br />9. Don't misrepresent yourself or others. You should be careful that what you post about your training and education is accurate and consistent with information you have given to your employer. <br />10. Be who you are. Some posters and bloggers work anonymously, using false screen names. That is usually not a good idea. Transparency and honesty are the best policies to follow. Hiding behind a "handle" name may embolden you to post things you would not ordinarily post (and against your better judgment!). <br />11. Respect copyright and fair use laws. For your employer's protection as well as your own, it is critical that you respect laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others, including your department or agency's copyrights, logos or images. Use citations early and often.<br /><br />Finally - There will be more violations using this form of media currently occurring across the nation and the Attorneys and the NLRB will be right there to protect your rights or to release you to the wolves to suffer the penalties or inappropriate postings. A word of caution related to posting medical information about your EMS patients on Facebook or other media sites. Violating HIPAA laws can be similar to unleashing a nuclear bomb on your career and finances. The feds are starting to sharpen their litigation knives on the big players that violate HIPPA like CVS Caremark who were tossing patient’s written prescriptions in the dumpster for all to see. They were fined over $2 million dollars for that infraction and the hunt is on for HIPAA violators. Beware.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-3612866425115308691?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-36128664251153086912011-06-28T14:32:00.000Z2011-10-07T14:11:07.220ZWhat does the Fire Service have in common with the US Navy?noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyWe are finding ourselves in a period of time that misbehaviors among members of the Fire Service have a lot in common with our publically elected officials and the US Navy. Each sector is having problems with bad behavior and egregious actions on the part of those individuals and subsequent terminations or resignations from their appointed or elected positions. I say appointed positions as we in the fire service are appointed by our departments to provide a vital function to our communities similar to the Navy officers and elected officials. <br /><br />Lately however there is a rash of publicity about those behaviors that are embarrassing our services collectively and those individuals involved. There is enough written about the fire service in the media and finally with the resignation of the NY Democrat Anthony Weiner, we now look at the Navy. Ever since the Tailhook scandal in the 1990&rsquo;s the Navy has been stung by a series of high profile events involving their command staff. For those of you too young to remember the Tailhook scandal, the event refers to a series of incidents where more than 100 US Navy and Marine Corps aviation officers sexually assaulted over 80 women or otherwise engaged in &ldquo;improper or indecent&rdquo; contact at a Las Vegas conference in 1991. As a result of the subsequent investigations, a number of officers were formally disciplined or refused advancement in rank. <br /><br />As a result of higher level of scrutiny and the power of the Internet and social media, the Navy has fired a dozen commanding officers this year, a near-record rate, with the bulk getting the ax for offenses related to sex, alcohol or other forms of personal misconduct both on and off duty. The terminations, which follow a similar spike in firings last year, have shaken the upper ranks of the Navy, which prides itself on a tradition of carefully cultivating captains and admirals. In the past 18 months, the Navy has sacked nine commanding officers for sexual harassment or inappropriate personal relationships. Three others were fired for alcohol-related offenses, and two on unspecified charges of personal misconduct. Combined, they account for roughly half of the 29 commanding officers relieved during that period. Of the 29 officers fired, three are women. <br /><br />The Navy has a stated position and is duty-bound to uphold strict behavioral standards, even when commanders are off-duty. A Navy spokesperson stated, "The divide between our private and professional lives is essentially gone, and it really does what a commanding officer does in their personal lives.&rdquo; These issues get to the core issue of integrity, personal conduct, trust and the ability to enforce standards."<br /> <br />The fire service has those same standards of high integrity but it takes a Chief Officer to set and enforce those standards. We are continually embarrassed by actions of the members of our service either career or volunteer. And what makes it worse is that many of these shenanigans are posted on the social media networks to compound those egregious activities. A solution is a greater level of entry level screening of our firefighters to ensure that we are hiring the &ldquo;best and brightest&rdquo; and swift and sure punishment when a policy is violated. <br /><br />Oh, did I mention Policy? Be sure to have one to cover these issues in your department.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-5165448761082349414?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-51654487610823494142011-06-22T18:51:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:20.452ZLet me tell you a little about my father.noemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyMy father just turned 91 years old and he&rsquo;s my HERO. He remains active in his community on Cape Cod in Falmouth, Massachusetts. He golf&rsquo;s, bowl&rsquo;s, goes to Mass every Sunday and sings with the choir, drives his car, walks around town, lives in a senior apartment complex, cooks at the senior center for the &ldquo;old people&rdquo; and the homeless and drinks an occasional beer. He&rsquo;s active, vibrant and vital and remains relevant and vital to his children and members of his community. <br /><br />My father was one of a kind &ndash; community minded and family oriented. He and my mother were married for over 50 years until breast cancer took her from us. My father never remarried as he says that no other woman could replace her. I was always thinking that no other woman would want to be married to him &lsquo;cause he&rsquo;s a curmudgeon &ndash; a lovable one however. We had the typical two parent family with three boys. We had a fourth brother who died at birth. My brother named one of his sons after him - Daniel Matthew Murphy.<br />The things that made my dad unique to me and my two brothers was that he always loved us, first and foremost even though growing up in a small town in upstate New York, we were on a first name basis with the local police. Community lore said if the local police could not solve a crime by going to three houses in town, the crime was unsolvable! The other families that shared in this notoriety were the Fosters, the Moore&rsquo;s and of course the Murphy&rsquo;s. All had hell raising sons in their families and we were buddies in our youth &ndash; a tribe of sorts. We were all altar boys at the local Catholic Church which was a whole other story, but we were tight with God and we felt absolved on Sunday from our weekly sins.<br /> <br />My dad was involved in Rotary and as a Coach of my Little League team. Our name was the Green&rsquo;s among such other team names as the Reds, Blues, Yellows, Golds, ect. You get the picture, not very creative but we had a lot of fun. He loved baseball and wanted to pass that love of the game to his sons and other children in town. We played hardball &ndash; no &ldquo;T&rdquo; ball or softball for us. It was player pitched and I cannot tell you how many times I got hit by an errant pitch. My dad was always there saying get up and get back in the box &ndash; and stop crying. Isn&rsquo;t there crying in baseball? Nope he would say. He was there to teach me about sportsmanship and to be a team player.<br /><br />He provided me with the shortest sex education class ever. We were driving around town and he all of a sudden says, &ldquo;do you know what the word &ldquo;starting with an F and ending with a K&rdquo; (it wasn&rsquo;t fire truck) means?&rdquo; I said, &ldquo;yes I do&rdquo; and that was the end of my sex education. He wasn&rsquo;t much of a teacher but he worried about his sons coming of age with raging hormones and tons of pimples. He also taught me and my brothers to respect our elders, to say please and thank you and to place a napkin on my lap when eating. He taught me to open and hold doors for anyone who was entering into the same business and to love my wife and children. He taught me how to drive a car and taught me the value of a turn signal and speed limits. <br />My father was a WW II Navy veteran of serving in the Pacific Theater on the USS Bennington with Torpedo Squadron 82 (VT 82) also known as Devils Diplomats. There was no love lost between him and the Japanese as many of his flight crew friends died in that war, shot down and never to return. He discovered the fate of a couple of the flight crew who were shot down over Ichi Jima in a book by James Bradley, Flyboys. In this book the author discovered the Navy aviators crashed their airplane on Ichi Jima were captured and were eventually beheaded after months of torture. Everyone in the Squadron thought they perished at sea &ndash; a much better ending in the sailors minds than getting beheaded. <br /><br />My father was there for me and my brothers when we went into the military. My one brother and I were in the Navy and the other brother went to the dark side and joined the Army. My dad would write letters to me and my brothers who were all in the service at about the same time. The funny thing about my dad was he would write ONE letter starting out with Dear ___________ and leave the name out. He would Zerox the letter, fill in our names and send us the letter. This guy was efficient and funny.<br /><br />My dad was not a war hero, a fireman or a cop. He was a chemical engineer who went to night school after the war as so many did, built a productive life and had a beautiful family. While he was going to school he also worked as he had a young wife and son. He worked hard; he taught us core value that continues to guide our lives. He also taught us that hard work never killed anyone and you get further ahead making the effort rather than slacking off. He taught that education was important but you could do well in life under his &ldquo;hard work&rdquo; beliefs. My brothers and I went on to successful careers and raised robust families. My dad now has a &ldquo;large&rdquo; family in addition to his sons and their wives; he has eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. We all gathered at his 90th birthday last year and he is still talking about it.<br /><br />My dad is now thinking about his mortality. He worries about money, his health, his aging joints, his allergies and most of all he worries about dying and people finding him dead in bed. We keep tabs on him every day and we reassure him that we are there for him like he was there for us. &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t worry about money&rdquo; we say. We reassure him that he is in great health confirmed by his several doctors. We urge him to stay active in the community, his church and with his friends. He is a very social creature and has hundreds of friends although most are dead or dying. That is what happens to old people and will eventually happen to us as well, but not too soon we hope. <br /><br />What has my father taught me has stuck with me through my entire life and career. He also taught me to laugh, love, share my knowledge, be nice, get a dog, and love my family. In the end, he says, family is all you have left. <br />He is our hero and remains our hero every day that he lives. I share this story with you because of the upcoming celebration of fathers all over the world but more importantly, because of my father, who is my HERO. I love you dad.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-659947752361735718?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-6599477523617357182011-06-17T17:55:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:20.702ZAbandoned Structures &ndash; Finally leadership recognizes the Dangernoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyI was relieved to see that the Detroit Fire Department new Commissioner and the remaining fire department leadership finally get the dangers of abandoned structures. In December I stuck my foot in my mouth over a simple observation about the homeless inhabiting these structures and firefighters getting killed while searching an abandoned building. In the most recent news, Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin said normal procedures had firefighters entering every building they responded to as a precaution. But now, according to Austin, firefighters will only go into a burning building if there's a clear indication that someone is inside. This will take a major cultural change in firefighter&rsquo;s response to abandoned structures in this and other cities who adopt this position. Detroit had a 2010 wall collapse injuring six firefighters, Chicago lost two of their own last year and Worcester lost 6 firefighters in 1999. I call for the prosecution of the owners of abandoned buildings to force them to mitigate the abandoned building problem they created, in most if not all cities across this country. It is all about safety and thank you Detroit for setting the high safety standard.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-7092291179143323072?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-70922911791433230722011-06-15T19:27:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:20.858ZSex, Sex and more Sexnoemail@noemail.orgJohn K. MurphyNow that I have your attention, there are far too many reportable cases of firefighters having sex in the fire station or in fire department apparatus. How many is too many? One is enough but five or six reportable incidents in the span of one month are way too many and many more in the span of the last five years. Several of these events will result in criminal charges against the firefighters as the encounters were with underage girls. <br /><br />In recent news, a firefighter has been reinstated after being terminated for inappropriate sexual encounters on duty in 2010 and other firefighters recently engaged in such behavior have been terminated, will be terminated and some will be criminally charged. What is that saying for our profession? Is it a thrill to have sex in the fire station or a fire apparatus? Personally, I do not profess to have any knowledge of this thrill, but suffice it to say, it portrays a poor public image to our taxpayers and quite possibly the firefighters wives, girlfriends and of our co-workers. Am I too much a moralist? I don&rsquo;t think so, but there is a time and place for everything and sex in the fire stations and fire apparatus are not the time and place. Last month in California there is a report of a firefighter accused of having sex in the fire apparatus while on duty and now other women are coming forward to complain of the same behavior on the part of this firefighter? How embarrassing for the fire chief and the fire department. The interesting thing in these situations are most, if not all, of the firefighters in the station know that this behavior is occurring. What are they doing about it? Most would be saying &ldquo;good for them&rdquo; until they get caught and then their story changes to &ldquo;what was he thinking?&rdquo; <br /><br />In other parts of our Nation, there are allegations of prostitution rings in fire stations that have been investigated by Internal Affairs Division or the police in a couple of our metropolitan cities.<br /><br />This information about inappropriate behavior is getting around the nation at the speed of the Internet. Especially with the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media; the sexual scandal genie is out of the bottle before you can say shazam.<br /><br />Where are our supervising officers and where is our moral compass pointing? Officer&rsquo;s involvement is paramount in controlling the internal affairs (no pun intended) of our fire stations. That is to say, the fire officer needs to know what their firefighters are doing for the 24 or 48 hours the firefighters are in the station. A recent case in Spokane Washington, an on duty firefighter was in contact with an underage girl, having sex with her in the fire station and taking and posting pictures of those sexual acts. The Police, when investigating the charges, suggested that the firefighter delete those pictures from his website and camera. What the hell was &ldquo;thinking process&rdquo; in that investigation. I'm thinking spoliation. <br /><br />Today, we also have immature and narcissistic politicians showing their &ldquo;junk&rdquo; via Twitter or impregnating their house staff. To see the magnitude of this issue, Google &ldquo;Sex in the Fire Stations&rdquo; and the list goes on and on all over the country.<br /><br />What can we, as fire officers do to stem this tide of inappropriate behavior? First could be the department conducting a comprehensive psychological evaluation when hiring volunteers and career staff; create and enforce a Code of Conduct that has a zero tolerance policy related to these and other types of behaviors that shame and embarrass the Departments; create an Internet use policy; have a swift and sure internal investigation process that is quick to act on complaints of this nature and if not prepared to conduct a thorough internal investigation, have the police or an outside agency conduct this inquiry. Finally, have your officers and firefighters well versed on how we should conduct ourselves while representing your respective departments and not embarrass yourself or your department. By having and enforcing these policies you can quite possibly avoid this embarrassing problem and avoid the arrest of a firefighter for having sex with an underage minor or others in the fire station. History tells us that the offending firefighter will be charged with a sex crime with underage girls and at times any of the women may charge you with rape when confronted by the police during an investigation. The offending firefighter can also avoid the classification of a sexual predator which follows you for the rest of your life. Unfortunately if you conduct yourself in this offensive manner, you may be spending some of your most productive time in jail and never get to fulfill your dream of becoming a firefighter. <br /><br />Let&rsquo;s get smarter and avoid these embarrassing situations. Our politicians are doing it for you and we do not have to replicate bad behavior. Our communities expect better from us &ndash; let&rsquo;s at least meet and exceed their expectations.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5498937894505856593-2870684081521770610?l=john-k-murphy.blogspot.com' alt='' /></div>tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5498937894505856593.post-28706840815217706102011-06-08T21:00:00.000Z2012-06-13T13:55:21.014Z 500

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