D.C.

Fight brews over firefighter pregnancy policy

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At seven months pregnant, D.C. firefighter Melissa Davis says she would like to be working but can’t. She’s on forced sick leave from the department.

A pregnant firefighter fights a new policy. (Photo: WJLA)

For the last two months, Davis has been without her work and without pay.

“We've cut back a lot and we're doing the best we can,” Davis said. “It’s been stressful and especially when you're anticipating a new baby."

Three months from her due date, Shalonda Smith says she’s lucky enough to be using donated sick time from other employees – but that’s quickly running out.

“It’s just scary,” she said. “I don't know what’s going to come, I don't know how I'm going to supply for a newborn baby.”

Both women have been with the D.C. Fire Department for years. But because they are promised 30 days of desk work, they are forced to take sick leave to ride out the remainder of their pregnancy. It’s a policy change that was put in place in March.

“There are women out there that are currently pregnant that are keeping it a secret, afraid to get put in the same position,” said Ed Smith, president of the D.C. Firefighters Union.

In a statement, D.C. Assistant Fire Chief Kenneth Jackson states: “Our pregnancy policy is in line with federal law and District guidelines.”

D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson is hoping to get the policy reversed and disputes the idea that moving the women from the truck to the desk would increase overtime costs.

“MPD doesn't do this, and Fire and EMS didn't used to do this, so I think they're on thin ice,” he said.

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