I wondered why a July 6 2019 Ethics Hero post was suddenly getting lots of visits. The reason was disappointing: Presley Prichard, the inspiring paramedic who built herself up from a slim, 120 pound paramedic into a160 pound athlete so she could meet the strength and fitness requirements to achieve her life goal of being a firefighter — “This is how female empowerment is supposed to work” I wrote, saluting her determination—
—was fired by Evergreen Fire Rescue in Flathead County, Montana for posting provocative photographs of herself on Instagram.
I thought we had settled this. When Pritchard’s Ethics Hero post was written, I noted that Pritchard had used photographs of her dramatically upgraded physique to inspire others on social media , but that some people complained. (Why? Why?) This prompted a board review of her employment, for which “Pritchard prepared a Powerpoint slide show, including her workout and bathing suit photos compared with various calendar photos of male firefighters. She also read from the Montana Annotated Code for gender and sex discrimination. Speaking for the board later, Evergreen Fire District Board Chairman Brodie Verworn said that Pritchard’s online photos ‘were not a concern.'”
They shouldn’t be. Though sexually provocative photographs online can constitute legitimate problems for some occupations (See the large and varied stories under the Naked Teacher Principle tag), they should not for firefighters, male or female. How does a firefighter’s web modesty or lack of it affect her ability to do her job? I can see a possible objection to extreme photos on social media sites if they could be reasonably said to undermine the reputation of an organization and the public’s trust, but that would be a “Porn Star Fire Fighter Principle,” and nothing like that is occurring here.
Pritchard now has over 100,000 followers on her Instagram account. (It was about 30,000 when I first wrote about her.) She regards herself a “fitness influencer,” posting inspirational messages, information about her partnerships with wellness brands, and photos and videos of her workouts, as well as photos of herself that show off her physique, like this one…
Evergreen Fire Rescue began reprimanding her for her Instagram shots, and when she defied a direct order to remove them, it fired her despite her department lacking a social media policy.
Now Pritchard is suing—GOOD—alleging that she was the victim of “sexism and a double standard favoring men.” She also alleges sexual harassment on the job.
This should not have happened to Pritchard, who is still an Ethics Hero here. I’m rooting for her, and looking forward to the next chapter in the Presley Pritchard Saga being a happy ending.