Public-Sector Rules May Be Strict, but Respectful
It is wholly reasonable — even obvious — for the city of Woonsocket to implement these rules for its firefighters:
The order bans work that that would involve using department time or resources, including the uniform, for personal gain; doing work that would normally be expected to be done for the city while the firefighter was on duty; any acts that would have to be reviewed or approved by the Fire Department or other city employee; and lastly, work that “involves such time demands as would render performance of his or her duties as a firefighter less efficient and effective.”
These four requirements follow basic ethical and professional norms from which public sector employees and officials seem too often to be excused in Rhode Island. Where Woonsocket goes too far, however, is in presuming not to treat firefighters as adults and professionals:
The city has issued a general order to its firefighters that says starting May 11, if they want to work a second job, they will need the permission of the chief or the public safety director.
Policies should be in place to take corrective and punitive action when rules are broken, but giving an employer a preemptive veto power over activities outside of the workplace is a clear violation of rights and due respect.