- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

The D.C. inspector general is recommending "appropriate disciplinary action" against an Emergency Medical Services supervisor whose advice prompted three rookies to get abortions last year.
The incident, first reported by The Washington Times last August, occurred during a two-week orientation class in March 2001 for emergency medical technicians that was conducted by interim EMS operations chief Samanthia M. Robinson.
In an 11-page executive summary of his investigation, D.C. Inspector General Charles C. Maddox says the majority of the class recalled that Miss Robinson told the EMTs they were on a year's probation, had no union representation and could be fired if they became pregnant.
"Robinson's statements in this regard violated official District government policy prohibiting the termination of government women based solely on their pregnancy," the report states.
The D.C. Code prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy.
According to the inspector general's report, a 21-year-old EMT one of six women in the class discovered she was pregnant two months after the orientation class.
"She immediately notified her fiancee of the pregnancy and expressed her concern about maintaining her job as an EMT," the report says. "[The EMT] and her fiancee decided that she should terminate her pregnancy in order to continue her employment."
The report contains the stories of two other EMTs from the orientation class who came forward independently of the first woman and described how they decided to terminate their pregnancies out of fear of losing their jobs.
Kenneth Lyons, chairman of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, which represents the city's paramedics, said the women declined to speak about the incident, but that all three remain on the job.
"They are still experiencing trauma over the issue," Mr. Lyons said yesterday. "They're dealing with it day to day."
The three were interviewed but not named as part of the report. Also interviewed were the other six members of the orientation class and fire department officials, including Miss Robinson.
Miss Robinson told investigators she informed the class they were on probation for their first year but denied the incident occurred as described by the three women.
"According to Robinson, she encouraged the class to become active members in the union and denied that she informed the class that they had no union representation or union rights during their first year," the executive summary says. "Robinson also denied discussing with the class the issue of EMTs becoming pregnant during the probationary year and claimed that she never used the word 'pregnancy' to the EMTs."
But in interviews conducted by the inspector general's investigators, five of the nine members of the class four women and one man remembered Miss Robinson telling trainees they could lose their jobs if they became pregnant.
The other four class members two women and two men remembered Miss Robinson advising the new hires not to become pregnant during their probationary year because they could be fired for any reason.
All nine remembered Miss Robinson saying the probationers had no union representation.
"Her assertions that she never made such statements are not credible in the face of consistent and contrary recollections of so many witnesses," the report says. "Based on a preponderance of the evidence developed during the investigation, it is reasonable to conclude that Robinson improperly advised EMT trainees that female EMTs could be terminated if they became pregnant during the first year of employment."
The report says the case was forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which declined to prosecute Miss Robinson, citing a lack of evidence of criminal intent.
It recommends the department take "appropriate disciplinary action" against Miss Robinson but makes no recommendation as to what form that should take.
The report also calls for fire and EMS management to ensure that instructors are aware of D.C. policy regarding absences for maternity reasons, and calls on management to distribute that information to department employees.
Gloria Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Maddox, declined to comment on the report or the investigation.
A cover letter signed by Mr. Maddox gives interim Fire Chief Adrian Thompson until Sept. 3 to tell the Inspector General's Office his plans for implementing the report's recommendations.

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