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Leave Policy For Pregnant Firefighters Questioned By D.C. Council Member

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D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson says the current leave policy for pregnant firefighters "sends an inappropriate message."
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson says the current leave policy for pregnant firefighters "sends an inappropriate message."

Mendelson says right now pregnant firefighters are allowed only 30 days of "limited duty," such as desk work. After that pregnant employees are required to take leave, which the council member says is often unpaid.

Mendelson says the current policy means pregnant firefighters are losing out on money at a time when they may need it the most.

"In my view, it sends an inappropriate message, it sends the wrong message. It even sends a sexist message," he says.

Kenneth Ellerbe, the Fire Department chief, in a letter to Mendelson, says its "limited duty" policy was changed in 2010 in part to address overtime costs.

A fire spokesman adds that if the department carves out an exemption for pregnant women, the city could open itself up to claims of discrimination by other employees with temporary disabilities such as diabetes or cancer.

But Mendelson says he wants the Fire Department to fix this policy quickly. If not, he says he has talked to the attorney general about making the change through council legislation.

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