U.S. firefighter chastised by chief for wearing patriotism on his head

Firefighter paints helmet with U.S. flag but chief says it doesn’t conform to department standards
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/08/2009

An American firefighter and former soldier is facing discipline at work because of some patriotic paint on his helmet.

Richard Busa, 32, began working as a firefighter in Newton, Mass., in 2001. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, he joined the army and was eventually shipped out to Iraq. He was injured while serving and was discharged from active duty, returning to Newton’s fire department.

To show his support for the troops and his patriotism, Busa decided to paint his firefighting helmet in the colours of the American flag. He checked with the department’s rules and didn’t find anything against it, so he painted his helmet in red, white and blue heat-resistant paint.

However, when a deputy chief saw Busa’s helmet, he ordered Busa to paint it over. Busa refused, and another deputy chief said the same thing. Busa continued to refuse and the fire chief got involved, ordering Busa to get rid of the flag on his helmet. The chief said the colours of Busa’s helmet didn’t conform to the standards of the fire department, which was black helmets.

The chief said if he allowed Busa to wear a different coloured helmet, others might alter their helmets putting other colours or images on them that might hurt the fire department’s appearance of professionalism.

Busa said he won’t paint over the helmet and could face a suspension. He told UPI.com he would wear another helmet while on calls if it would save his job.

“I really hope that I can keep wearing it,” Busa told UPI.com. “But I couldn’t survive without getting paid, and this is my only source of income.”

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