A New York City REMAC Certified Paramedic recently filed suit in Brooklyn Supreme Court against New York Presbyterian Hospital for terminating her because she is an Orthodox Jewish woman who’s modesty tenet requires her to wear a skirt whenever possible. The New York Daily News has a much more instigating headline of New York-Presbyterian axed Orthodox Jewish paramedic over her religious refusal to wear pants: lawsuit. From that article:
The Orthodox Jewish woman said her religion’s modesty tenet prohibits her from wearing pants, and that the FDNY dress code for emergency medical technicians discriminates against her religious practices
Honestly I was pretty surprised by the reaction I initially saw to this article, most notably the negative reactions from both other women who work in EMS and people who have benefitted from similar considerations. The arguments offered are mythical excuses of the highest order and so let’s address those first.
Dispelling The Myths
The main arguments I have seen used as to reasons why you can’t wear a skirt on an ambulance were:
- It’s a safety issue – this statement is so vague that it’s hard to figure out what they mean by it. Let’s stick with uniforms and start with if safety were TRULY a priority, EMS personnel would NOT wear navy blue. If safety was the goal then all EMS uniforms would be high visibility colors such as orange, yellow, or green. High visibility colors are the standard across Europe and in Australia so you can’t say no one does that
- It’s a blood borne pathogens violation – the truth is that all porous material opens you up for risk, including the material your current uniforms are made out of. The exact same materials that are used to make those current uniforms can also be used in the construction of a skirt. Material is funny that way, it’s highly customizable. If you’re truly worried about something getting under the skirt, there are leggings that can be worn under of the same (or even better) material. If a skirt was such a contamination issue, then why are there still nurses wearing them everywhere AND on floors where MRSA can run rampant? It’s not an issue, so let’s stop trying to use it as one
- It’s against the “rules” – this is SUCH an interesting claim. First, you need to ask WHO‘s rules? If your answer is FDNY‘s, well that’s okay… because she didn’t apply or get hired with FDNY who already has their own inclusion/discrimination issues. She was hired by a private hospital that, while it does participate in the New York City 9-1-1 system as a voluntary participant, has other ambulances that are NOT part of that system. Most notable, and interesting, is their new Mobile Stroke Unit that was launched in 2016. The truly ironic part of this is that the Cleveland Clinic has had a Mobile Stroke Unit in service since 2014; Cleveland also happens to be where the paramedic in question originates from. To me, the ability to provide a reasonable accommodation is a no brainer here, but the hospital chose not to consider it for whatever reason
- She’s just looking for a legal payday – actually, not according to the lawsuit that reportedly “seeking no less than $25,000 for religious discrimination and get her job back.” That, to me, qualifies as she wants to get her legal fees covered and the job that she was wrongfully terminated from
If you have a legitimate, new, and NOT dispelled reason as to why this shouldn’t be allowed then please by all means let me know in the comments. Just make sure to be respectful about it.
The Real Problem
The real problem here isn’t that her religion has a modesty tenet, that it’s unsafe, that it violates a “rule”, or that she’s looking for a legal payday. The real problem here is that someone who has proven themselves able and capable of doing the job has been denigrated because of their beliefs. The same way a person who has proven themselves able and capable of doing the job is denigrated because of their skin color, or their gender, or by the way they sound, or by the tax status of their employer. The real problem is a lot of that denigration has come from their peers… their “family”.
EMTs and Paramedics are our own worst enemies. We are the source of the majority of our problems. If we cannot have the basic respect for one another, then how can we expect anyone else to respect us?
Last year I asked for one thing for EMS Week. This year my ask hasn’t changed… stop eating one another.