IRC firefighter granted light duty assignment

IRC firefighter granted light duty assignment

A pregnant Indian River County firefighter, who has been pleading for months for light duty, has finally been given a light duty assignment.

Nicole Morris, now 33-weeks pregnant, started asking Fire Chief John King to help her better protect her unborn baby just months into her pregnancy.

She originally was not asking for light duty, but the ability to max out the number of shifts she could exchange with other firefighters, wanting to work for them early on in her pregnancy, so they could work for her, in exchange, after she gives birth.

Only 9 of 12 shift exchanges were approved by King. Morris was asking King to allow firefighters of a different rank to switch shifts with her since no one of rank was available. King does have the authority to approve out of rank shift exchanges, but he did not approve Nicole's requests.

Further along into her pregnancy, the focus shifted to allowing Morris to, instead, work light duty to preserve the sick and vacation time she has accrued to be used after giving birth, not beforehand.

Morris and the fire union president took their concerns to county commissioners, who did not act to give Morris an exception to county policy.  Indian River County is one of just two counties in the state with no light duty option for pregnant fire fighters.

It finally took a scare in Morris' pregnancy for a light duty option to be considered.

Morris said she started going into pre-term labor at just 31 weeks. Her doctor wrote a letter ordering her to be on light duty.

Firefighters say the new, incoming fire chief, Tad Stone, pushed for Morris to be given a light duty assignment.

Two weeks after the doctor wrote the letter, Morris said she was notified they found her a light duty assignment.

For those two weeks, she was not working and burning sick time, relaxing at home, per doctors orders.

Other firefighters said they would donate sick time to her to allow her enough time off after she gives birth.

Morris' light duty policy starts Monday. She said she is not sure exactly what she will be doing yet, but her doctor said she should only be doing secretarial work and no lifting.

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