General Question

tranquilsea's avatar

Have you ever heard of a height restriction for lifeguards?

Asked by tranquilsea (17760points) January 10th, 2012

My daughter who is just shy of 5 feet was told this evening that her hopes of being a lifeguard were slim due to her height. The instructor said that the minimum height for women was 5’2”. This is her very first instruction level class.

Now my daughter is feakishly strong. She is stronger than most boys her age. She is also a very strong swimmer as she has been a fish her whole life.

She has wanted to be a lifeguard since she was 7 and has taken every swimming course she can to get her to that goal. To say she was crushed when she got into the car after her lesson is an understatement.

I think that if she can pass all the training then why shouldn’t she be a lifeguard? I wouldn’t want her out there potentially saving lives if she can’t do the the job but if she can why would she be limited? What would 2 extra inches do for her?

Does anyone know anything about this?

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31 Answers

Nullo's avatar

While I can think of possible reasons why there might be a height requirement (mass for one, and longer arms and legs could translate into more powerful or more efficient strokes, and a taller person could touch bottom sooner), I have never heard of such a thing.

Perhaps you could ask the instructor?

tranquilsea's avatar

Oh, I’m going to. As I stated if she can’t pass the trials then fine. But if she can then why would they limit her?

She is not skinny 5 feet. She’s strong. In her last class she was the only student who, right from the get go, was able to get a 15lb weight off the bottom of the pool (12ft).

tranquilsea's avatar

I’ve seen taller people with short limbs so the height restriction seems a bit arbitrary.

tranquilsea's avatar

And really are you going to quiz the person coming to save your life about their height? No! You just want them to save you. If she can then she should be allowed to.

john65pennington's avatar

I can tell you what happened in my police department back in the early 70s. We had men and women police applicants that did not meet height and weight requirements. Our union sued my police department for discrimination in Federal Court and we won. Now, there is no height or weight requirements for police applicants. This won lawsuit applied to every police department in the nation and it did.

This same court decision should apply in your daughters case.

I will attempt to locate that lawsuit and notify you.

You can help by checking websites pertaining to discrimination involving the nations police departments.

Like I said, this was in the early 70s Independent Police Union vs. Metro-Nashville Police Department.

Lets keep each other posted.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I have never heard of a height requirement, and I couldn’t find reference to such a thing on any website about lifeguarding that I could find. It seems to me that the ability to pass the physical tests like retrieving objects of a certain size and weight should be enough.

tranquilsea's avatar

It is just insane that he singled her out before he even saw what she was capable of.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I checked out Google and I can’t find anything that says there is a height requirement. What I can find seems to suggest there isn’t.

No, I don’t remember ever hearing about such a thing.

The ability to swim and the ability to save a person from drowning seems more important to me than a person’s height. I am way taller than her and I already know that I would trust her to save someone from drowning in the deep end more than I’d trust myself to! I can barely swim.

JLeslie's avatar

We probably should not be angry at the instructor, he is most likely just enforcing a policy. But, it is worth questioning and challenging the policy.

I was never a lifeguard, so I am not in tune with the rules and requirements. Being very short when trying to save a 6 foot kid who weighs 280 who is grabbing on her might be a little difficult though. But, being 5’2” as opposed to 5’ would not make a big difference. But, it does seem sort of logical to me there might be a cut off.

tranquilsea's avatar

@AnonymousGirl I couldn’t find anything when I googled it either. I thought we were through judging people based on sex & height. I agree with you: if she can do the job then let her.

JLeslie's avatar

@john65pennington There are no height and weight requirements for police? I find that surprising. Do they just test strength, stamina, agility?

tranquilsea's avatar

@JLeslie I think a 6’, 280lb kid would be hard for anyone. Besides they get training for that exact scenario.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea I agree. Definitely challenge it. Make them explain why the rule is on the books, and have them show you where it is in writing. Aww, I want her to be able to do it, she wants it so bad.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’ve put this question on Facebook too and few of my friends have gone through lifeguard training. They think this guy was just on a power trip.

What a thing to say to a 14 year old, “The chances you get to be a lifeguard are slim. You’d better just shoot for being a swimming instructor”.

I haven’t been this mad in a long time. I’ve told her to prove this guy wrong and to try her hardest to beat out everyone in the class. With the caveat that her best try is all I’m looking for.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea Well now, that additional piece of information is very annoying. What a jerk. Fight for her. Let us know what happens. Good luck.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

“Are slim”? That’s a pretty telling statement there—it means he might not believe there is a height requirement at all in the rules. It says a lot about him, for sure. I hope she outwits him one day… or already has, several times. :)

tranquilsea's avatar

@JLeslie I’m in fight mode and no one fights harder than I do when insane things like this come up.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea Maybe consider letting her fight for it? You know your child best and what she is capable of, or whether you think this time maybe let her see you in action to help her learn how to fight against things like this in the future.

Pandora's avatar

It may either have something to do with the length of her shoulders and arms. You have to be able to put your arm around a persons neck and arm pit and rest their body on your body if they are unconcious. At least when my husband was a life guard that was one of the ways. If you are in porportioned to your height that that means she would have from the middle of her back to her finger tips 30 inches. You need to be able to get a good grip. Plus no matter how strong she is a person who is resting on the length of her body could easily slow her down because she will not be able to float as easily if they are very long and unconsious. She would have to work harder than most people to pull someone in who is unconsious. I don’t think they mean to discriminate but I would think they have to consider the safety of others and what they believe she can do.
I don’t really see anywhere, where there is a height requirement but if she will be working alone in the pool than maybe they simply want to hire someone who looks big enough to handle someone really large.
Being a life guard also comes with a different set of problems. Sometimes people panic and pull you under or can actually hurt you when you are trying to save them. Maybe they feel she won’t be able to handle someone who is out of control. You also have to be able to maintain order in the pool and I have seen young lady lifeguards get ignored about rules in a pool by unsupervised children. Life guards often have to act like security guards.
Now if your talking about taking lifeguard instructions, than I don’t see how they can keep her from getting her certificate and trying out. I think that individual pools by individual owners can choose who they feel will better protect there property and that of their guest. After all if something goes wrong they are the ones who would get sued.

Pandora's avatar

I looked it up and it seems there are no height requirements. There is an age requirement. You can get your certificate at 15 years of age but I think places can still put their own requirements on who they wish to hire. I use to rent apartments and every summer we only would hire college students to be life guards. No high school age kids. We also required that they have dependable transportation (their own car). They tried having kids who would have to rely on a ride to work and to many times we were left with no guard because they couldn’t get a ride to work or they arrived late or they quit half way through the summer and it would be hard to find someone else. Maybe it has more to do with her age or whoever is hiring doesn’t know there is no height requirement.

Bellatrix's avatar

@tranquilsea, I just went through the Australian Lifeguards Service website and couldn’t find a mention of a height requirement. This seems to cover everything you need to be able to do etc. to be a lifeguard here

I would help her put her concerns in writing. Attach any evidence you have regarding her fitness and proficiency in the water. Hopefully it will find someone sensible. If there really is a height regulation, the organisations website or paperwork should specify that or I don’t know if it would even be legal to stipulate such a condition? Perhaps someone with legal experience can answer whether they can uphold a stipulation that isn’t publicly noted in their application process/requirements?

tranquilsea's avatar

I’ve looked through all of our on-line sources in this city and there is no mention of a height requirement either.

She was just in her first class for the Bronze Cross. She hadn’t even hit the pool yet. This guy was just being an ass.

@JLeslie I’ve thought about this all night and I’ve been leaning towards having her handle this. This is the first time she’s experienced blatant discriminatory statements regarding her height. Up to this time she’s “just” taken a lot ribbing for how short she is. It sucks that it happened when she’s 14 and not a little older as I think she’ll have a harder time trying to deal with this due to the power imbalance.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea Well, if she is so young you can of course take up the fight for her. You could also let her try first. She can at least ask him why specifically she is not allowed. When he has to prove it maybe he will back down. The thing is, if this guy is an asshole from the start, he may need another adult, even a man, to challenge him. Only one way to find out. When I worked in retail and I would get some idiot cocky man who wanted to return something that was completely unnacceptible (and we took back almost everything) if he was that sort of guy that seemed to have serious anger or entitlement issues going on, When I called in a second manager for backup, I called a male manager. We all did it, we all joked we are going to need to get a man for this one. Sad, but true.

Another little story. When I was in 6th grade, I was 10 years old, my teacher put me in the bottom math group. I had always been very good at math. I lived with it for a few weeks, I was little and didn’t know I could challenge a teacher. One day I mentioned it to my dad, and he said I should go to the teacher and tell him I think I should be in a higher math group. We had not been tested or anything, I still have no idea why he placed me in that group. Anyway, I went to him, stated my case, and said I wanted to be in the top math group (there were three groups, the bottom one, the on level one, and the excelled one). I think he though it was very ambitious, maybe even unrealistic, going from the bottom to the top. He said, “this is the assignment those kids are doing now, can you do these problems?” I did three of them right there on the spot. He let me in the group. But, my teacher wasn’t an asshole, just evaluated me poorly on my ability in math based on nothing from what I can tell.

@Pandora It surprises me little kids would ignore a female lifeguard. To a little kid doesn’t everyone over the age of 14 appear to be a grown up. Especially if she has a loud whistle. LOL.

tranquilsea's avatar

@JLeslie “just evaluated me poorly on my ability in math based on nothing from what I can tell.”

In my book, someone who judges you based on nothing (I think, from your example, he was judging you on something) is a bit of tool.

She’s going to have to fight, at different points in her life, for what she wants to do. This will be good initial practise and I’ll step in if she founders.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea So true. He judged me on something.

Let us know how it goes.

john65pennington's avatar

Tranquilsea, you have an excellent case of discrimination. Start gatering all the facts of who, what, when, where and why and have it in writing. You are beginning to build a case in defense of your daughter, for Federral Court. If you have an attorney friend, contact him/her and advise of the situation with your daughter.If you look around, you will see short, fat police officers and tall thin police officers. This is why there is no longer discrimination in the hiring of officers that do not meet a specific height to weight proportion. And this will apply also to your daughter.


tranquilsea's avatar

UPDATE: He pulled her to one side tonight and told her that he was wrong and that she’d make a great lifeguard from what he had seen her do thus far. DUH! I could have told him that before he made his first pronouncement.

She’s feeling good about her class now. Thank you all so much for your concern and support!

Bellatrix's avatar

Great news @tranquilsea. I hope he learned something from the experience.

JLeslie's avatar

Yay! Well, I give him a little credit for admitting his mistake. In the end he wound up being a good example I guess. And, she can feel good about not giving up, even with some negative words thrown at her, and sticking with it.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

That is great news, @tranquilsea! Thank you for sharing that with us. ^_^

I second what @JLeslie said.

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