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  • Volunteers and FLSA

    From the IAFC VCOS:

    Volunteer Firefighter Compensation Clarified IAFC Victory Establishes
    Bright Line Test

    Fairfax, VA, August 11, 2006... The International Association of Fire
    Chiefs (IAFC) and its Volunteer & Combination Officer Section (VCOS)
    are pleased to announce a major victory in their request for definitive
    guidance from the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor
    (DOL) regarding how volunteers are treated under the Fair Labor
    Standards Act (FLSA). In an August 7, 2006 letter to the IAFC, the DOL
    created a “bright line” test clarifying that fire departments and other
    entities can provide its volunteers up to 20% of what the public agency
    would otherwise pay to hire a full-time firefighter for performing
    comparable service. Read the letter (pdf file) .

    The most significant part of the letter involves what kinds of – and
    how many - expenses, benefits and nominal fees can be provided to a
    volunteer without turning that volunteer into an employee (who is subject
    to, among other things, minimum wage and overtime protections).
    Importantly, the DOL created the following “bright line” test – fire
    departments and other entities can provide its volunteers up to 20% of what the
    public agency would otherwise pay to hire a full-time firefighter for
    performing comparable service. The DOL also allowed various types of
    payments to the volunteer per shift, month, or year and depending upon the
    number of shifts, calls and/or hours worked by the volunteer.

    The August 7 letter is the final answer to a three-year effort by the
    IAFC. “IAFC and its members view this ruling as a very positive
    development in clarifying the complex rules regarding the FLSA,” said IAFC
    president, Chief Bill Killen. “We will now take the next steps to educate
    our members on these important changes.”

    "We are very excited about this important ruling for the fire service.
    We thank the efforts of those who have spent timeless effort in
    bringing to fruition this ruling. We appreciate the legislative report and are
    beginning to provide information to share with our members with this
    historical ruling," said VCOS chair, Chief Timothy S. Wall.

    The IAFC and VCOS are analyzing the DOL’s letter regarding this new
    “20% Rule” and other key determinations over the last several years for
    both volunteer and employee firefighters. This analysis will be
    presented at the VCOS Symposium in the Sun Conference in Orlando on November
    9-12, 2006. After the conference, IAFC and VCOS will distribute the
    analysis free to its members and will make it available to non-members for
    a fee.
    -------------------
    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
    -----------------------------------------------
    Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

  • #2
    Oh boy here we go!!!!!!!!
    J
    It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

    Comment


    • #3
      ok, so does this mean since volunteers are going to be paid for their services, does this mean that they have to abide to state minimum standards concerning qulifications. for instance, many volunteer departments, including the ones where i am, do not require that a VOLUNTEER firefighter participate in any state and/or national certification training. but a professional full-time firefighter has to work throughout their career to get the training and certifications in order to recieve pay raises and rise in rank.

      my thing is this. their is one major difference between a volunteer and paid firefighter, its the one word VOLUNTEER. that means that you are offering your services to the public for no, or very VERY little money at all. if u have a problem with working for no pay, then why did u join the VOLUNTEERS to begin with. and by the way, this is coming from a volunteer firefighter who is taking the time to get the certications i need to one day become a FULL TIME PAID firefighter.

      now i am not against volunteers recieving money per run to pay for gas and mantinence to their vehicals, but recieveing 20% of what a full time firefigher makes sounds a little to much for me. but hey, if they want me to recieve 20%, then i guess there is nothing i can do about it.
      2009 Warren County Firefighter of the Year

      Comment


      • #4
        ((getting the popcorn and putting my feet up))

        Always like to see a good fight now and again.
        Jason Knecht
        Firefighter/EMT
        Township Fire Dept., Inc.
        Eau Claire, WI

        IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
        http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
        EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Wow, only 2 replies before it became a career/volunteer issue. I posted this because I thought it would be of interest to forum members who are volunteer firefighters.

          The agreement does not address training, certification, color of apparatus, leather versus plastic helmets, or smooth bore versus fog nozzle. It just sets a limit of when a volunteer who receives a stipend or reimbursmnet is considered an employee. Don't like the 20%, then write to the DOL and IAFC.

          In many places, their is no distinction between training requirements for career, part-time, or volunteer fire fighters.
          Last edited by KenNFD1219; 08-12-2006, 07:45 AM.
          -------------------
          "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
          -----------------------------------------------
          Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

          Comment


          • #6
            Where's the horse?
            Attached Files
            I am a highly trained professional and can find my :: expletive deleted:: with either hand in various light conditions.

            Comment


            • #7
              This can be a good thing............

              As an example......... We had 3 people on our Paid-on-call/PT fire department that were also employed FT for our city. 1 as a Police Officer and 2 as dispatchers. From what I gather, according to FLSA, these 3 employees, tecnically, needed to be paid overtime for all hours worked at the FD. In order to get around it, the city worked a deal with these people. Their pay rate was lowered so that their time-and-a-half pay equalled what their normal pay would be if they weren't FT employees of the city. Because it was such a pain in the butt to do this, now our policies for the city/FD say that you cannot work for the FD if you are a FT employee for the city in another department.

              If I understand this new ruling, it will allow some of our city's employees in other departments to also work for the FD if they want to. And/or it will allow FD employees to stay as firefighters if they would get hired in another department, say as a streets/utility worker or a police officer..........
              The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
              We are all adults so there is no need to act like a child........
              IACOJ

              Comment


              • #8
                If they are getting paid, they are not VOLUNTEERS.
                Fire Marshal/Safety Officer

                IAAI-NFPA-IAFC/VCOS-Retired IAFF

                "No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
                RUSH-Tom Sawyer

                Success is when skill meets opportunity
                Failure is when fantasy meets reality

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dave1983
                  If they are getting paid, they are not VOLUNTEERS.
                  I'll play devil's advocate on this. I volly in a county which is still primairly rural, my first-due happens have more of a "suburban" setting to it. The county's protected by about 150 volunteers from 5 stations, no career staffing other than a part-time county chief and part-time assistant county chief (but that's another thread entirely).

                  If, as one of the five district chiefs in the county, I saw that I might be able to suppliment the volunteers income of $0.00, and pay them $5/per call, or $20 per training session, does this not make them volunteers any more? They still respond to calls as they're available, have to work full-time jobs, and all of the other things "volunteers" have to do, but now I have given them a little incentive to run that 0300 AFA.

                  As much as I'd love to, I never get involved in the career versus volunteer issue on any of the boards I am on (I am also a career FF), so it's not an us-versus-them thing here, but I do feel strongly that you can compensate the personnel without them losing thier "volunteer" status.
                  Career Fire Captain
                  Volunteer Chief Officer


                  Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dave1983
                    If they are getting paid, they are not VOLUNTEERS.
                    Exactly. That is the real definition. You're paid. You're a professional.

                    I do volunteer work in my community. I don't get paid a dime. It usually ends up costing me money.
                    They told me if I voted for Hillary Clinton the president would be emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable. They were right. I voted for Hillary Clinton and got a president that is emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable.

                    I'm not saying you're stupid. I'm saying you have bad luck when it comes to thinking.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The agreement only sets the point at which someone becomes an employee of the organization. I know their are purists that see any payment to a volunteer as somehow making that person a paid employee. The huge distinction between an employee and a volunteer receiving stipends or certain payments is huge.

                      Just for the record, while I am a career firefighter, I volunteer for several organizations which, as SCFire86 stated, usually (always) costs me money. For me the return is worth the expense. If one of the groups I belong to wanted to give the members stipends for gas or other related expenses, great, at least I know where I stand in regard to employment status and tax liability.
                      -------------------
                      "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
                      -----------------------------------------------
                      Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by firenresq77

                        As an example......... We had 3 people on our Paid-on-call/PT fire department that were also employed FT for our city. 1 as a Police Officer and 2 as dispatchers. From what I gather, according to FLSA, these 3 employees, tecnically, needed to be paid overtime for all hours worked at the FD. In order to get around it, the city worked a deal with these people. Their pay rate was lowered so that their time-and-a-half pay equalled what their normal pay would be if they weren't FT employees of the city. Because it was such a pain in the butt to do this, now our policies for the city/FD say that you cannot work for the FD if you are a FT employee for the city in another department.
                        I thought this was already addressed in a ruling last year to say that you may "volunteer" in any department except the one you work in as a career job. That is to say you can work at DPW and "volunteer" for the FD. Wasn't this the PG or Montgoemry MD decision about working at one station and "volunteering" in another.
                        Without this type of ruling, the situation firenrescue77 describes would seem like a perfect retirement fund. When your ready to get done go to the labor bureau and tell them of your illegal "deal" with the town, then get a fat check for those hours that should ahve been paid in full overtime fashion. It is that kind of backdoor dealing that will cause the absolute separation of vol. and career. I'm not against volunteering in a another dept. that is not your FT job, but bending the rules will only bite us all.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          In firenrescue77's case, the critical difference is probably the department's status as a paid-on-call / part-time paid department.

                          Let's take it out of the fire service for a moment...

                          Guy works for the Town Highway Department mowing road sides, plowing, putting down cold patch during the week for 40 hours.

                          Come Saturday, he goes and runs the payloader packing garbage in the roll-offs at the dump, err, transfer station.

                          Would it be fair for the town to call those two seperate jobs, and pay someone straight time for each? Here's 40 hours for that, here's 8 hours for this.

                          I think most people would cry foul and say common sense says you pay the guy time-and-half for the 8 hours on Saturday. Otherwise, it kind of undermines the spirit of FLSA..."Ok everyone, no more 60 hour work weeks. We'll be splitting your job descriptions into one for 30 hours, and another for 30 hours, and paying only straight time for both!"

                          There's also an expectation when it's truly a "volunteer" activity, and the person isn't "required" to volunteer to keep their main job...that that doesn't violate FLSA because the person is voluntarily donating their labor to a different job function.

                          Where this letter kicks in is for volunteers who receive some nominal compensation for whatever reason, when does that compensation become enough to say time-out, we've got to kick this up to the jurisdiction of FLSA.

                          And under the letter, it's 20% of full-time firefighter pay.

                          The biggest item to watch out for in that letter is how do you pay.

                          If it's a stipend program of some sort, not directly linked to hours worked, most places will be in good shape. Figure in my state, full-time firefighter pay would average at least $50,000...certainly you don't see $10k stipends / LOSAPs / tax breaks / etc here. Even in MA where paid-on-call is very common, you rarely see that number.

                          HOWEVER, if you pay on an hourly basis...it's 20% not of the *annual salary* of a paid FF, but 20% of the *hourly rate*. In New England, the 42 hour work week predominates for FFs, so that's $22.90/hour for the base pay of that $50k/year firefighter.

                          20% of that is maximum of $4.58 hourly rate. Departments that are paying $8 or $10/hr for attendance at calls, drills, etc figured based on hours worked may have all their members fall short of the $10,000/year figure...but violate it on the hourly rate test.

                          I'm not positive of the law, but I'd also worry if you pay a nominal amount like $5/hour for "volunteers"...someone with a hair up their butt in the future could argue that the 20% rule has been established, and once you surpassed 20% per hour of a fulltime FF, you also had to start paying the Minimum Wage.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'm pretty sure our union would try and collect dues from anyone who is considered FT by the FLSA!! In our state if you are a FT employee you must be given benefits. So now do these personnel need health insurance and a retirement contribution too? What a frackin mess! Actaully I'm pretty certain none of our call firefighters puts in nearly 20% of the "on duty" time of one of the career folks (2912 hrs/yr. without OT) Actually now that I look at it thats only 582 hrs, I guess I'm not so sure!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Well, I'm a noob to all of this, so if I'm speaking a bit out of place I do apologize.

                              I think it boils down to what and how you are getting paid as to whether you could still be considered a volunteer or not. For instance, the County of Sumter (SC) pays its volunteers $5/call. I don't think anyone in the county really looks at it as a wage (even though tax paperwork still needs to be filed) as much as the county having the resources to reimburse volunteers for gas and such, which in this day and age, a little help with gas is not a bad thing. Now, I'd do this regardless of whether they were compensating me for gas or not, but I would hardly think that $5/call is taking away someone's volunteer status.

                              Just my .02...

                              Cheers,
                              Tom Warshaw
                              Tom Warshaw
                              Station 13 (Bethel)
                              Sumter Fire Department

                              "Scientists believe that the world is composed mainly of hydrogen because in their opinion, it is the most abundant element. I however, feel the earth is composed mainly of stupidity, because it is more abundant than hydrogen." - Frank Zappa

                              September 11, 2001. We Must Never Forget.

                              In memory of Thomas Sabella, L-13, FDNY


                              All opinions stated are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my department or any organization I may belong to.

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