West Metro to require new workplace respect training

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By Deborah Swearingen

West Metro Fire Rescue is implementing a new workplace respect training program for district employees in light of the #MeToo movement.

Partnering with Julie Pate, a Denver-based attorney and founder of Employment Compliance Solutions, LLC, the fire protection district will require all of its employees to go through the training. The training also will be available to members of the district’s board of directors. Pate’s company offers a number of training services, including one on respectful workplaces and avoiding harassment in the workplace, and she has worked with fire departments such as Poudre Fire Authority and Aurora Fire Rescue.

“Our organization for a long, long, long, long time has always been up front. … We set standards for everybody,” said Chief Don Lombardi.

“Not that this is a reaction,” he added. “This is more of a proactive approach to kind of guide our folks in what the expectation is in today’s environment.”

The idea for the training was a collaborative effort with Local 1309 of the International Association of Firefighters, the union representing West Metro’s firefighters.

“It’s obviously something that’s being talked about,” said union president Mike Mulcahy. “ … People are starting to realize what they say and what they do affects an organization.”

While harassment training has been required in the past, this particular training is more intensive and is conducted by Pate, who Lombardi said is considered an expert in the field.

According to Employment Compliance Solutions’ website, the workplace respect training is designed to help managers and employees understand the law of harassment and what can be done to protect themselves. Lombardi said the mandatory training will be completed while firefighters are off-duty. Although this will be more costly, it avoids a scenario where a firefighter has to leave in the middle of training to go on a call.

“This isn’t a check box,” Lombardi said. “This is really try to culturalize what we do here at West Metro … be that organization that’s a leader in all of this.”