VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida firefighter who is seven-months pregnant is being told by her bosses that she will have to carry out her regular duties until she gives birth.
Firefighter-paramedic Nicole Morris told TCPalm.com she is scheduled to work her normal job until the day before her C-section even though her doctor has told her it is not good for her or the baby for her to be in the field this close to delivery. Morris, 35, said carrying 70 pounds of equipment, doing CPR and lifting patients is becoming more difficult.
“We spend a third of our lives dedicated to taking care of the people of Indian River County and they won’t take care of us,” Morris said.
Indian River County administrators said the county’s contract with the firefighters union says covered employees “shall not be entitled to light or restricted duty for non-duty related illness, injury, or condition (such as pregnancy).” It runs until next year.
“The terms in this agreement were specifically negotiated and agreed upon,” County Attorney Dylan Reingold said. County Administrator Jason Brown said the union never asked to change the pregnancy clause during the last two contract negotiations.
Union president John O’Connor said he is nearly certain maternity policies were discussed during the last negotiations and that that pregnant firefighters should be assigned to light duty.
“Going into a hazardous environment that could be anywhere from 700 to 1,000 degrees puts the female firefighter and the unborn baby at a substantial risk of being hurt,” he said.
Indian River County sheriff’s deputies are put on light duty as soon as they learn they are pregnant. The fire departments in the counties surrounding Indian River on Florida’s Atlantic Coast all move pregnant firefighters to light duty with no loss of pay.
Morris said she has 500 hours of paid time off banked but wants to save that to spend time with her new child.