HR Strange But True!
November 02, 2006

Harassment is serious business, and it's rare for a harassment prevention policy to qualify for HR Strange but True!--but this week we have one.

It comes from our neighbors to the north in Richmond, British Columbia, where the fire department has faced complaints from female firefighters who allege they have been subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment.

The city's fire department recently decided to devote $16,000 to a new initiative to prevent harassment in fire houses. How is the department spending the money? On boxer shorts.

The city is implementing a policy that requires male and female firefighters to wear standard boxer shorts for underwear, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports. The city will spend $16,000 to purchase six pairs of boxers for each of its 215 firefighters.

The city says it set a standard for what type of undergarments firefighters may wear because firefighters change into their fire gear in a common area when they are called to respond to a fire.

"Generally, they change out of their pants into that gear in a common area," Ted Townsend, a spokesperson for the city, tells the CBC. "So, because their undergarments are then exposed, we felt that it was appropriate to establish a minimum standard for those undergarments."

In a recent decision of a harassment grievance, a mediator strongly recommended that the city have separate washroom, showering, and changing facilities for male and female firefighters. The mediator said a lack of separate facilities contributed to the problems at the city's fire houses. The city tells the CBC that it is implementing the mediator's and other recommendations.

Is Richmond the first jurisdiction to have an underwear policy for firefighters? No, the fire department in Delta, British Columbia, established a similar policy in 1997, the Surrey Leader reports. The city's deputy fire chief tells the newspaper that no firefighters have complained about the policy.

Sources: CBC and Surrey Leader

TGIF - It's HR
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