“Is there any reason for someone convicted of a tax felony 20 years ago from being a firefighter,” Rukavina questioned. “Probably not.”
However, if that felony conviction was for child molestation, there’s a huge reason why a person should not be allowed to serve as a firefighter and an EMS provider because of the access they would have to children, he said.
The same is true for someone convicted of a property crime like grand larceny or theft, he said.
“The community has a reasonable expectation that a firefighter won’t go into my house and steal my [stuff],” Rukavina said.
Because firefighters are allowed to go into people homes, unlike a sanitation worker or a road crew employee, there should be a rule that disqualifies the candidate from employment as a firefighter, Rukavina said.
When it comes to a conviction of driving under the influence, Rukavina said, as a fire chief, he would consider the age of the conviction and whether there was any other repeat offenses. If the conviction was six or more years ago, Rukavina said, and there wasn’t even a “whiff” of a problem since, he would consider the candidate for employment, all else being equal.
In his presentation, Rukavina also touched on the issue of social media and testing for legal drugs.
In the case of firefighters taking photos of accident victims, the best way to avoid any problems is to make sure they’re just not taken, Rukavina said.
And when it comes to drugs, departments can’t test for legal drugs, at all, he said. The best practice is to have the firefighter tell the employer about the medication, have a discussion about how it might affect job performance and have a medical professional sign off on whether the firefighter is fit for duty, or needs light duty or leave while on the medication.
Offering some general advice, Rukavina said whenever there’s a question about a legal subject, getting some legal advice is probably the best practice.
The municipal agency is always going to be the one named in any litigation because individuals typically don’t have enough assets to go after, Rukavina said.