Discrimination in EMS ends when attitudes change

Most of us who are minorities want what everyone else wants – a fair chance to work in an honorable profession, and be respected for what we can do


I shake my head, sadly not in disbelief, but at the simple sad fact that many of our departments continue to be run by Neanderthals. And, I know that’s insulting to Neanderthals.

Discrimination hurts. For race, sex, age and other protected classes, discrimination is unlawful. For departments that discriminate against its EMS providers, that’s just plain wrong. But I digress.

I think that in this day and age, who you would want to come to your door in the middle of the night to render emergency services would be the person most qualified to do so. Nearly all departments have minimum qualifications in aptitude, skills and knowledge to perform the required tasks; if you meet the qualifications, you deserve the chance to work in this profession in an environment that supports your efforts and not resent them. 

Makes sense, right?

But clearly it doesn’t, to quite a few departments across our nation of the free, where all persons are allegedly equal under the law. There is a certain amount of entitlement in departments that wish to protect the status quo, that yearn for the “good old days” and simply can’t stand the concept that people of all colors and both sexes perform the job just as well – or better – than those who currently occupy those positions.

Most of us who come from the minority aren’t asking for a handout or a free pass. We want what everyone else wants – a fair chance to work in an honorable profession, and be respected for what we can do. Not too much to ask for.

The pace of organizational change can be glacial, unless the law intervenes and imposes the will of society upon the agency. Then, legal intervention simply drives the discrimination underground, making the visible signs less so.

Having seen departments go through court-mandated changes in hiring and work practices, I can attest that it's ugly. But unless leadership from both administration and line staff close ranks and make a concerted, sustained effort to make the workplace a safe, enjoyable environment for all, that’s all that there is to make things right. 

If even a small percentage of these allegations are true, I suggest that the city has a good set of lawyers that have kept the monetary awards to a minimum. I’m less sure about how much longer that situation will continue. 

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