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Indian River County leaders to vote on new light-duty pregnancy policy for employees

Posted at 11:53 PM, Apr 30, 2018

An Indian River County firefighter at the center of the fight for a light duty policy for pregnant firefighters has given birth to a healthy baby girl.

And that’s not the only good news firefighters are learning this week.

Indian River County leaders are also set to vote on a new policy to allow light duty options for all pregnant employees, including firefighters.

This serves as a victory to dozens of Indian River County firefighters who have fought for months, and in some cases years, for a light duty pregnancy policy.

WPTV first exposed the lack of a pregnancy policy in the county, making it one of only two counties in the state, with paid firefighters, that do not have a light duty option for pregnant firefighters. 

"Thirteen years, 13 long years and a lot of hard work,” said Christen Brewer.

Engineer and Solo Medic Christen Brewer was a major supporter of a light duty policy for pregnant firefighters.

She was pregnant 13 years ago in 2006, and the first pregnant firefighter to be denied light-duty, she said, after the county did away with a light duty pregnancy policy.

“When I had my daughter in 2006, it was gone,” said Brewer.

At one point, she said, she responded to a dangerous emergency call, and still denied light duty.

“He grabbed a machete, and he threatened to kill all of us. And I was about 7-and-a-half months pregnant,” Brewer said.

Solo Medic and Engineer Nicole Morris got pregnant in 2017. 

She was also denied light duty. 

Morris even asked to work more shift exchanges earlier on in her pregnancy so she could max out her sick and vacation time to use after giving birth. She struggled to get any help from Chief John King, she said, in maximizing her shift exchanges and planning her maternity leave.

She only got a light duty assignment after going into pre-term labor nearly 8 months into her pregnancy.

Brewer is now giving much credit to a new fire chief, Tad Stone, for helping push for a pregnancy policy for firefighters. She's also praising county leaders for recognizing the danger to women and their unborn baby.

Late last week, Fire Union Officials and Brewer learned the county has taken action.

“We didn’t know it was going to happen. We went to a regular negotiations meeting and the county had it out and ready to go. So, it was a surprise.”

The surprise was a draft of a policy created by county leaders, that Fire Union representatives said they would support, too.

In a copy obtained by WPTV, the new policy would read “Bargaining unit employees shall not be entitled to light duty or restricted duty for non-duty related illness, injury, or condition (not including pregnancy), except as required by law.”

“It was great news, I think, for everybody,” Brewer said.

While the policy change did not come soon enough to help Morris during her pregnancy, Brewer is grateful future families will now likely have more support from the county.

“There’s no need to ever have to risk your child for your career,” Brewer said.

County leaders still need to vote to make it official. The vote is expected within the next few weeks.