Female firefighters want fair policies addressing pregnancy

TAMPA, Fla.— The story of a seven-months' pregnant firefighter in Indian River County is capturing national attention after her bosses informed her she would have to continue her normal duties until the day before her scheduled C-section.

Nicole Morris is a 35-year-old firefighter paramedic who is asking to be placed on light duty until she leaves to be on maternity leave.

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Administrators from the county, however, are pointing to an agreement with the firefighters union which states employees "shall not be entitled to light or restricted duty for non-duty related illness, injury, or condition (such as pregnancy)."

“I’m upset, I feel for her,” said Tanja Vidovic, a former Tampa firefighter who broke into the male-dominated field while starting a family.

“I was pregnant three times on the job,” said Vidovic.

But while many of her co-workers accepted her as part of the team, she says those with an “old school mentality” made her feel unwelcome.

“I was harassed a lot while being pregnant,” recalls Vidovic. “I had firefighters tell me they didn’t want to work with me because I was pregnant.”

And it’s not just in Tampa. Vidovic strongly feels agencies across the country are behind the times.

“If departments have been around for 100 years and they still don’t have women’s bathrooms and they still don’t have policies for women, meaning pregnancy policies, then they’re showing they don’t care.”

The mother of three eventually lost her job with Tampa Fire Rescue.

“I got a failing yearly evaluation citing the reason they failed me was because I was pregnant.

My captain, my district chief and my fire chief signed off on it… that was heartbreaking.

A spokesperson for Tampa Fire Rescue says the city can’t comment on the case due to pending litigation, but did tell 10News while the agency does not have a specific policy addressing pregnancy, Tampa firefighters are allowed to go onto light duty when pregnant.

The entire city also recently adopted a new maternity policy. But Vidovic insists fire departments can do better.

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“Their mentality is tradition. They say it’s always been this way, and it's good, it will always be this way, versus things need to change. We need to make it more welcoming to women.”

Vidovic says she hopes to reach out to other pregnant firefighters, including in South Florida, to offer her support.

“It's helpful to talk to someone who’s been through it.”