Bipartisan Legislation Introduced To Provide Job Protections For Disaster Volunteers
Oct 29 2007
Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced the Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act (S. 2399) to protect first responders from retribution if they miss work to respond to a disaster.
Communities across the country depend on volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel to respond to major disasters. Current law offers these volunteers no protection against punishment by their employers if they miss work when called to respond to a national emergency. This means that firefighters or EMS personnel volunteering their time during major disasters like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina or even the current wildfires in California can be disciplined or even fired, all when they put their lives at risk to save others.
The Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act will protect volunteers from losing their jobs while they continue their vital service to this country. First responders will no longer be required to make a choice between losing their job or responding to a presidentially-declared disaster or emergency.
“The Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act is common-sense legislation to help those who help others,” said Sen. Carper. “Without this legislation, we are asking first responders to sacrifice for us without providing them job protection when they return from disaster relief work – and that is simply unacceptable.”
“This bill is a matter of simple fairness,” said Sen. Collins. “The Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Personnel Job Protection Act recognizes that our dedicated volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel are critical in times of disaster. By extending some protection to these brave men and women, we can strengthen the protection and life-saving response that they provide to many millions of Americans.”
To receive the protections offered under the bill, a first responder must provide reasonable notice to their employer before missing work and must provide regular updates during the course of their absence. The bill also allows volunteer firefighters or EMS personnel to take legal action against businesses that violate this law.
The legislation places a 14-day limit on the amount of time volunteer firefighters or EMS workers may take off from their jobs before being subject to disciplinary action. The bill does not require employers to compensate volunteers for time away from work.