FDNY Backed Legislation Amends State Law to Remove Gendered Language Regarding Firefighters and Police Officers

February 4, 2019

Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro today thanked Assembly member Jo Anne Simon and Senator Betty Little for their support in passing a new state law related to replacing all instances of the words or variations of the words “fireman” or “policeman” with the words “firefighter” or “police officer” or variation thereof in all official documents and laws. The bill was recently signed into state law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“In the FDNY, we do not have firemen; we have Firefighters – women and men who bravely risk their lives to serve our city, protecting life and property from fire,” said Commissioner Nigro. “Today, more women serve in the ranks of the FDNY than at any point in our Department’s 154-year history. These brave women deserve to be properly recognized and I thank our elected officials, and the growing number of women within the Department, for their steadfast support of this important and long overdue change.”

Assembly member Jo Anne Simon, the sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, said, “I’m thrilled that the gender neutral bill was signed into law. This legislation changes every New York State law that contains the words ‘policeman’ or ‘fireman’ to the gender neutral language ‘police officer’ and ‘firefighter’. This antiquated and inaccurate language promotes an outdated worldview that suggests to young girls and young boys alike that law enforcement and firefighting are fields only open to men. Stamping out gendered language recognizes the incredible women who keep us safe every day, and promotes inclusivity and participation in these professions to everyone. I’m grateful to the FDNY, the NYPD, and the United Women Firefighters for their work on this issue.”

“Antiquated terms reinforce antiquated concepts, which is why this statutory change is so important,” said Senator Betty Little, sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “When I was a young woman, the common career choices were teacher, nurse or secretary. I became a teacher and enjoyed it, but I am so gratified that women have so many other options, especially to serve as firefighters and to have the incredible honor of being that person who rushes in despite the danger to save someone’s life. Sponsoring this law that conveys a meaningful and positive message of equality was my honor.”

“I’m grateful the FDNY led the way on this change to amend state laws and documents to accurately reflect the growing number of brave women who serve as Firefighters in our city,” said Firefighter Jackie-Michelle Martinez, President of the United Women Firefighters. “This new law sends a strong and inclusive message to every young girl in our city who dreams of one day fighting fires in the world’s greatest Fire Department – this job is not only for men, you matter, and you are welcome here.”

“Words matter. The FDNY Women’s Benevolent Association believes gender neutral language is an important step towards changing gender bias and the outdated social norm that fighting fires is only a man’s job,” said Deputy Chief Kathleen Knuth, President of the FDNY Women’s Benevolent Association. “Terminology such as ‘fireman’ discounts the achievements and contributions of the brave women in the fire service and deprives young girls the exposure to female role models in firefighting careers.”

In 2016, FDNY identified the need for a change in outdated terminology in state codes which referred to Firefighters as “firemen.” The Department worked closely with Assembly member Simon and Senator Little to draft a bill that would remove gendered language from state codes with respect to Firefighters, Police Officers, and their spouses, creating a more inclusive environment for female employees. In 2018, the bill was reintroduced, passed both houses, and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo.