Separate Fire Station Facilities For Men and Women

Today’s burning question: Do we have to provide separate sleeping quarters and bathroom facilities for male and female employees?

Answer: I am not aware of any requirement that fire departments provide separate sleeping and bathroom facilities for men and women. Having said that, would you want your non-firefighter wife or daughter sharing sleeping, bathroom, and shower facilities with the men they work with? If not then why would you even entertain the idea that things can somehow be different for fire departments?

Providing separate sleeping, bathroom and shower facilities is a wise move that can head off a host of headaches down the road. The lack of separate facilities for women has figured prominently in many sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuits. While cases have stopped short of saying the lack of separate facilities is per se discrimination, is it a factor that juries may consider when evaluating just how sincere city officials are when they claim they do not discriminate against women.

An attorney representing a female in a discrimination/harassment case is likely to argue that the lack of separate facilities in 2016 is evidence of the department’s refusal to make accommodations for women in the workplace. It undercuts the credibility of the city’s witnesses. You know the saying: actions speak louder than words. For the life of me, I do not know how to counter that argument.

 

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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