A recent case in New York involving a police officer, taking 10 years to resolve, revives a sleepy law we do not hear much about called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
This case (Wright v. City of Jamestown), involved an Army Reserve officer with the Jamestown (NY) police department initially filed his USERRA claim against the department in 2007 after he was denied…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on July 26, 2017 at 12:08pm — No Comments
The current opioid epidemic has significantly increased the call volume for departments responding to citizens suffering from drug overdoses. Not a shift goes by without a call to assist someone suffering from an overdose.
When I was a street paramedic, we would receive calls from the public to assist individuals overdosing with alcohol, mushrooms, Freon, airplane glue, Benadryl and cough syrup containing…Continue
An extremely dangerous drug is on the street is affecting first responders including EMS, police and firefighters making a dangerous job all that more dangerous. This is not related to the prescription strength medication if taken in the wrong dose or administered erroneously creates its own danger.
A recent event in New Jersey involved a police detective searching a home and found a bag of white powder. The officer removed a scoop of powder for testing. When he was…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on June 19, 2017 at 10:00am — No Comments
Many fire organizations have Human Resources (HR) departments that deal with many of the issues related to the needs of firefighters and staff. HR deals with recruiting and hiring new firefighters, providing information about medical benefits and compensation, ensuring compliance with laws and ordinances, providing a pathway to local EAP Programs and responsible for employee development and firefighter training supporting your training division. HR is…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on June 9, 2017 at 4:10pm — No Comments
While teaching leadership classes over the past several years, I often wonder how long it would take my students to master the Art of Leadership. Is it one or two classes; experiences in the field as a leader; higher education at the Bachelors or Masters level; boots on the ground or a combination of all aforementioned?
Then I wonder about the amount of time it takes to become proficient at our leadership skill…Continue
I am a white male, born in America, enjoying the rights and privileges afforded to me by circumstances. In hindsight, I was born lucky. I have not been discriminated against, as far as I know: I have not experienced segregation, treated as inferior, objectified, regulated, persecuted, nor denied entry or re-entry into my own country. I have white male privilege.
My ancestors immigrated from Ireland, Canada and Germany.…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on March 16, 2017 at 5:30pm — No Comments
We’ve all been there, working in an organization that seems to be leaderless as you rarely see the Chief or members of his or her immediate staff and you respond to a series of Directives or Policies that make you scratch your head.
I have worked for Chief’s that bury themselves in seemingly meaningless activates, sitting in their offices emerging only when there is a major crisis or attending a Board or Council meeting and are seriously out of touch with their…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on February 26, 2017 at 5:30pm — No Comments
Question: Is your department performing inspections in your respective jurisdiction and under what law, ordinance, policy or assumed responsibly provides the reason and authority to conduct these inspections?
Inspection Liability – Facing the large loss fire in Oakland (CA), the fire attorneys have discussed the advantages of routine fire inspections of high hazard facilities, special…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on January 21, 2017 at 11:39am — No Comments
This year has certainly been interesting related to the legal issues facing the fire service. We continue to see the fire departments in the news for many high profile fires, rescues, service calls and the other good things we do on a daily basis.
Interestingly enough, in spite of the fact there has been a plethora of information from your favorite fire service attorneys (Murphy, Varone, Comstock and Pinsky) in…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on December 28, 2016 at 11:26pm — No Comments
Shakespeare writes, “all that glitters is not gold” expressing the idea that shiny things aren't necessarily precious things. How does this apply to our leadership in the fire services?
Gold signifies those in a leadership position are high on the leadership ladder. Gold badges, provided to the chief officers in the organization is indicative of the achievement: often hard fought with years of training, education,…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on November 26, 2016 at 3:00pm — No Comments
When teaching my classes on High Risk Legal Issues for the Fire Service, a topic that continually arises is how a ruling against a department for a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is enforced against a department. Notwithstanding an outright judgment against a fire department that involves a lot of money to resolve the issue along with resignations, terminations, demotions and other adverse actions, the term I frequently use is the application of…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on October 29, 2016 at 10:02am — No Comments
Question - When I arrive for my shifts at the fire station the duty battalion commander requires the crew to assemble in the apparatus bay to say a morning prayer. I do not practice any particular religion or have any particular belief system and walked away from the morning gathering not desiring to participate. I was called into the battalion commander’s office and placed on notice the morning prayer was a “requirement” and the next time I…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on October 1, 2016 at 8:00am — No Comments
The increase of violence against American law enforcement and firefighters has presented a new and not so innovative way to prevent damage from violent events from turning into a fatal event. The current panacea is the plethora of bullet or knife resistant vests now being issued by the various fire departments across the country. No vest is bulletproof so I will refer to them as ballistic vests for the remainder of this article.…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on September 20, 2016 at 11:30pm — No Comments
The recent notifications of the FDIC 2017 instructors places a great responsibility to those chosen to pass on your acquired knowledge to others. Knowledge gained through experience, education and probably a failure of some sort that may have had you rethink what you were doing and how you were you doing it is the knowledge we need to pass on. It is my understanding that over…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on August 24, 2016 at 10:11pm — No Comments
Fire suppression involves physically demanding work in hot, dangerous environments with
heavy encapsulating protective gear while being exposed to toxic chemicals and
particulate matter in fire smoke. Thus, it is not surprising that firefighters have high rates
of injuries and illness. Approximately 85–100 firefighters die each year on duty with
approximately 35–45 being caused by sudden cardiac events. But these on-duty sudden
Added by John K. Murphy on July 26, 2016 at 9:05pm — No Comments
In my passion for law and medicine as a practitioner of both professions, I often see individuals injured on the job arriving in my medical clinic for a return to work evaluation, most notably firefighters. Many times they are accompanied with the instructions from the department to use NFPA 1582 as the medical standard for the injured firefighters return to work. I will tell you in my humble opinion, this is not the standard to use for the reasons to follow.
NFPA 1582 is an entry…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on June 27, 2016 at 10:30am — No Comments
Tragedy has a strange way of clarifying a tough issue especially with the tragic death of Nicole Mittendorff, paramedic/firefighter from Fairfax County Virginia. We will never know the true reason she took her life, but the pressures must have been unimaginable for her to take this action.
The tabloids and media are speculating that her suicide is linked to cyberbullying, bullying and harassment by members of her department and…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on April 29, 2016 at 1:30am — No Comments
You have spent the last 30 years in uniform, serving your country and your community as a firefighter. Today you retire; hopefully in good health and financially stable. Now what? You do not have to get up in the morning to report to your station; you have to make a decision as to what to wear for the day as you do not have to wear a uniform; you do not have to drink bad coffee and hear horrible jokes with your crew. You do not respond to calls yet your ears…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on April 4, 2016 at 9:00am — No Comments
Question – I have been recently suspended for transporting a patient in my fire engine. Is this legal?
Response – Suspension is one application of a discipline process and is generally used to take personnel off the line to investigate a policy violation, wrongdoing or some other act or actions committed by an employee. Suspension must be in a discipline policy and the conditions under…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on March 7, 2016 at 11:00am — No Comments
Question – my department wants to start random drug testing. Many of the members have refused and have been threatened with termination. Our Union indicates it is a good idea, but cannot articulate why. Can you help?
Response – drug testing in the fire services has created one of the greatest controversies in our industry. With the emergence of recreational use of marijuana in Washington State and Colorado, it compounds an almost impossible job for…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on February 12, 2016 at 7:30pm — No Comments