Columbus and Firefighters Union Disagree About ‘Light Duty’

Plans to fix a policy that allows Columbus firefighters to work behind a desk and earn full pay while recovering from an injury — sometimes for years —  have stalled because union and city officials cannot reach an agreement, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

They’ve been meeting since February to close a hole in the policy that allows firefighters to stay on what’s called “light duty” for years, while forcing the Division of Fire to fill their regular-duty positions by paying overtime.

The meetings were in response to a Dispatch investigation this year that found there were 25 firefighters on light duty, more than half of them for a year or longer.

The reasons included stress; heart and weight problems; and chronic knee, back and shoulder injuries. Fire administrators said they are obligated to create a temporary position for a firefighter if the firefighter’s doctor says he or she can perform some tasks.

The division’s policy is supposed to limit light duty to 90 days, except in rare cases.

But one battalion chief has been on light duty for stress and anxiety for nearly seven years, costing the city more than $1 million.
Chiefs from other large cities such as Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton said they don’t allow firefighters to remain on restricted duty for more than a year. Columbus police had 30 officers on injured duty earlier this year, just one for more than a year.

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