Firefighter leaves maternity ward to take exam
This morning that report came to life as I read the headline "Texas Firefighter Gives Birth, Takes Exam" about Houston firefighter Beda Kent, who was forced to choose between taking her promotion test or remaining in the hospital with her daughteer after giving birth. A Texas state law mandates that everyone must take the test at the same time. Attempts by her firefighter's association to negotate an alternative test setting were unsuccessful. The captain's exam is only given about once every 2 or 3 years, so the incentive to take it was high. So Ms. Kent checked herself out of the hospital only 12 hours after giving birth in order to take the test, which she aced, by the way. Her health insurance wouldn't let her be readmitted to the hospital, so she and her husband returned every four to five hours so she could nurse her baby.
In Texas, we can only hope that Beda Kent's case provides motivation to modify the law to allow reasonable medical test postponements. The law already allows for active military personnel to make alternative arrangements. It's ludicrous to lose out on the talents of other qualified firefighters because they are on medical leave during the moment that the test is given. In fact, the failure to accommodate her situation may constitute illegal discrimination, so keep an eye on this story as it develops.
I am resisting the temptation to join the voices who call Ms. Kent a hero. Her situation is akin to asking a firefighter to risk her life to respond to a false alarm. No woman should not be asked to risk her health, or her right to recuperate after having a baby, for arbitrary work demands. Houson Fire Chief Phil Boriskie had an ambulance on standby at the test site in case she needed it. Common sense says that it would have been much more humane to allow her to take the test another time.
What can you do to support working parents and other caretakers? Please sign 9 to 5's petition to Congress to support the Healty Families Act, proposed legislation that would require employers to provide a minimum of seven paid sick days a year.