Florence, Kentucky is a suburb on the southern fringes of the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Even though I’ve lived in various parts of the middle eastern Unites States, Florence is the city in which I’ve resided for most of my life. It’s comprised of mostly upper middle class Caucasians. This town rarely makes the news, good or bad. The thing it’s mostly known for is a ridiculous water tower with the words Florence Y’all emblazoned on either side of it. It’s literally a few feet from I-75 so whenever I tell people outside of the Cincinnati area where I’m from they always reference that insipid water tower and say, “Oh, Florence Y’all! I know where that is!” and I cringe a little inside.
(Hideous, ain’t it?)
The Florence Police Department is making news for its treatment of a pregnant police officer. Namely, it’s refusal to make accommodations for her pregnancy.
Lyndi Trischler is a Florence police officer who, at the time of this video, was five months pregnant. She’s 7.5 months pregnant now. Her pregnancy was developing some issues. Her belt, which I can only imagine is quite heavy as it’s loaded down with equipment, was causing discomfort and pain to her rapidly expanding belly. She was developing some problems with her heart. She requested permission for light duty work, a desk job perhaps, for the rest of her pregnancy. She was denied. The FPD told her she could either patrol is she normally does or she would have to use sick hours to keep getting a paycheck.
That sounds pretty shitty, right? Unfortunately, it’s completely legal.
When I was a manager for Wal-Mart, this was a law I had to become intimately familiar with. I can no longer remember the name of the law, but it basically states that employers are only required to reasonably accommodate an employee if the employee becomes sick or injured while on the job. For example, were a computer to fall off my desk and break my foot, my employer would have to reasonably accommodate any physical limitations put in place by a medical professional. If, however, I broke my leg playing basketball and my doctor puts me on light duty, my employer is not legally required to accommodate any physical restrictions I may have. In this case, the city of Florence did not impregnate Lyndi (so far as I know), so they are not required to accommodate her physical limitations.
I understand the position of the FDP to an extent. Police departments around the nation have had their budgets cut in the years since the Great Recession. It’s hard to justify creating a superfluous desk job which takes one more police officer off the street. But let’s look at this from the other perspective. Why wasn’t Lyndi pulled off patrol the moment she found out she was pregnant? Not much happens in this city, but it is still sometimes required that a police officer has to put his/her life in danger. Lord knows I have as a manager apprehending shoplifters at Wal-Mart. You never know if the person you go out to apprehend is going to have a gun (or some other weapon) and possibly use it. Why are we putting this baby in danger? If Lyndi happened to get into an altercation with a suspect there’s a very real chance her baby could die if she’s hit in the gut hard enough.
It may not have been the most fiscally responsible thing to do, but the right thing to do should have been to put Lyndi in a position where there was no danger to her baby. Fortunately for Lyndi, many of her follow officers have donated their sick time to her so she is still getting paid even while she’s not working. In a time where all cops are being vilified for the actions of a few, it’s refreshing to read about how charitable police officers can be.
Lyndi has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit and I seriously hope she prevails. Almost every other civilized nation offers both mothers and fathers mandatory paid time off for the birth of a child. The US doesn’t. FMLA requires that employers give mothers and fathers time off, but doesn’t require that employers pay you during this time. Additionally, circumstances need to be taken into consideration when deciding whether a pregnant woman be given light duty. More specifically, the advice of her doctor should be followed without being given a choice about keeping your job.
This incident has shown a negative light on the city in which I grew up and I hope they ultimately decide to do the right thing. Since this has been going on for about 2.5 months, however, I doubt they’re going to change their minds now. How very sad.