April 17, 2008
FIREFIGHTERS AND RESPONSE TO FIRE CALLS
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You asked for summaries of two laws that outline the rights of volunteer fire and ambulance personnel who respond to fire or emergency calls.
State law provides certain protections for volunteer firefighters and members of volunteer ambulance companies when they respond to fire or emergency calls. The law applies to (1) state, municipal, and other employees and (2) responses to calls before and during work hours. It outlines procedures employers and employees must follow and prohibits employers from taking certain actions against such employees.
CGS § 7-322c
This law prohibits employers, including the state and its political subdivisions, from discharging or discriminating against employees who are volunteer firefighters or members of volunteer ambulance companies because they are late for work as a result of responding to an emergency call or leave work during regular work hours to respond to one. It requires the employee to give his or her employer a written statement signed by the head of the fire department or ambulance company, as applicable, informing the employer of the employee's volunteer or first responder status.
The employee also must:
1. make every effort to inform his employer when he or she may be late or absent in order to respond to an emergency fire or ambulance call;
2. if unable to provide such notice, give the employer a written statement signed by the fire chief or the ambulance company's medical director or chief administrator explaining why he or she could not do so;
3. at the employer's request, submit a written statement from the fire chief or head of the volunteer ambulance company verifying that he or she responded to a call and specifying the response date, time, and duration; and
4. promptly notify the employer of any change to his or her volunteer status.
An employee fired or discriminated against in violation of this law may bring an action within one year of the violation in the Superior Court for (1) reinstatement, (2) back pay, and (3) reestablishment of benefits to which he or she would have been otherwise entitled. The court may award the prevailing party costs and reasonable attorney's fees. (A copy of the law is attached.)
CGS § 5-249
The law allows state employees who are active volunteer firefighters or members of a volunteer ambulance company or service to respond to search and rescue calls without prior employer approval before they report to work, and with their employers' approval during regular work hours, without losing pay, vacation time, sick leave, or earned overtime. In such cases, the employee must provide his or her employer with a written statement from the fire chief or medical director or chief administrator of the ambulance service or company verifying and specifying the date, time, and duration of the response, if the employer asks for one (CGS § 5-249(a)). Also, any of these employees who have their appointing authority's approval to attend training sessions or drills during regular work hours cannot lose pay, compensatory time, or sick leave because of such absences (CGS § 5-249(c)).