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Volunteering at your own paid department

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  • Volunteering at your own paid department

    Someone thought this was a good topic all by itself after it was brought up in the "Boston" thread. One poster commented that firefighters weren't allowed inside their station unless they were "clocked in." I replied that my old department had a similar policy, and I knew of one case where a captain was formally reprimanded when he was caught coming in on his off day to work on a project we didn't get completed his previous shift. The kicker was that it was the UNION who turned him in and recommended that he get reprimanded. The issue was that the union felt that he was basically working for free, which would clearly be against the union contract. If he was going to be in the station working, he needed to be getting paid overtime as required by the contract. I think the union also wanted to send a message because the chief had a long history of encouraging guys to do such stuff for "free" or off the clock when promotions were coming up. The more stuff you did for free the better chance you'd get promoted.

    At the time I was a young probie and I was pretty upset that this guy could get reprimanded for going above and beyond to get the job done. 20 years later and having had experience as an IAFF local president, I understand it better. I don't know that I would have turned the guy in and ask that he be reprimanded, but I certainly would have pulled him aside and told him he wasn't doing the union any favors.

  • #2
    FLSA says that you are to be paid anytime your are working. That means anytime you are the station doing anything other than drinking coffee and BSing with the on duty crew. If you want to know how to say screw it and do whatever you want ask LA.

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    • #3
      2 posts and I'm mentioned.

      Damn, I'm popular!
      Train to fight the fires you fight.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by rm1524 View Post
        FLSA says that you are to be paid anytime your are working. That means anytime you are the station doing anything other than drinking coffee and BSing with the on duty crew. If you want to know how to say screw it and do whatever you want ask LA.
        That's the biggest issue I can think, FLSA. I can't believe there were a fair number of people in my own union that felt guys should be allowed to do such things if they wanted.

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        • #5
          As an employee of a department in a right-to-work state, obviously our union issues are far different than yours. Since I won't pretend to fathom working under contracts and strict employment guidelines, it just baffles me that doing something to better myself or the department when I'm not scheduled to be there would risk the union's stance with management.
          Career Fire Captain
          Volunteer Chief Officer


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

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
            Someone thought this was a good topic all by itself after it was brought up in the "Boston" thread. One poster commented that firefighters weren't allowed inside their station unless they were "clocked in." I replied that my old department had a similar policy, and I knew of one case where a captain was formally reprimanded when he was caught coming in on his off day to work on a project we didn't get completed his previous shift. The kicker was that it was the UNION who turned him in and recommended that he get reprimanded. The issue was that the union felt that he was basically working for free, which would clearly be against the union contract. If he was going to be in the station working, he needed to be getting paid overtime as required by the contract. I think the union also wanted to send a message because the chief had a long history of encouraging guys to do such stuff for "free" or off the clock when promotions were coming up. The more stuff you did for free the better chance you'd get promoted.

            At the time I was a young probie and I was pretty upset that this guy could get reprimanded for going above and beyond to get the job done. 20 years later and having had experience as an IAFF local president, I understand it better. I don't know that I would have turned the guy in and ask that he be reprimanded, but I certainly would have pulled him aside and told him he wasn't doing the union any favors.
            Notwithstanding the FLSA laws, I'd tend to think that the union most likely took action because it could set precedence which many employers love to cite at arbitration's, at least in the private sector and it wouldn't surprise me if it applies to the public sector as well; it could come back to bite the employees in the end.
            "Did you check under the bed?" -- Judge Crater, 1930

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            • #7
              If you are covered by FLSA the law clearly states that you cannot volunteer where you work. It sets a bad precedent that could easily be abused by management to coerce employees into working for free.

              However, Officers and Chiefs could receive professional or administrative exemptions. At which point it become a moot point.

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              • #8
                BoxAlarm - While I could be wrong, I think that FLSA would apply to your department whether you're a right to work state or not, which means that it's still illegal to allow such off the clock work. I'm willing to bet, however, that not everyone covered by FLSA follows it to the letter.

                My experience was more along the line of what ScareCrow stated. It had basically become a situation where you had to work extra time off the clock if you wanted to get promoted. If you didn't come in and do any work off the clock you basically had 0 chance of getting a promotion. It was getting out of hand and the union felt taking such an extreme stance was a good way to stop it. It did too. After that you rarely saw anyone coming in to the station on their off duty day. Depending on your viewpoint, that could be good or bad.
                Last edited by roykirk1989; 06-29-2010, 07:26 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
                  BoxAlarm - While I could be wrong, I think that FLSA would apply to your department whether you're a right to work state or not, which means that it's still illegal to allow such off the clock work. I'm willing to bet, however, that not everyone covered by FLSA follows it to the letter.

                  My experience was more along the line of what ScareCrow stated. It had basically become a situation where you had to work extra time off the clock if you wanted to get promoted. If you didn't come in and do any work off the clock you basically had 0 chance of getting a promotion. It was getting out of hand and the union felt taking such an extreme stance was a good way to stop it. It did too. After that you rarely saw anyone coming in to the station on their off duty day. Depending on your viewpoint, that could be good or bad.
                  I would also say that there is a difference between doing work and doing advanced training, education, or working out.

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                  • #10
                    Work$$$

                    In our Fire District you are paid for your work....you can work and not get paid (Volunteer) and you also can work and not get paid. The last part is that we have Volunteers who have never turned in a pay chit to be paid. They have said that they are Volunteers and do not want the money.
                    Respectfully,
                    Jay Dudley
                    Retired Fire
                    Background Investigator
                    IACOJ-Member
                    Lifetime Member CSFA
                    IAFF Alumni Member

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                      2 posts and I'm mentioned.

                      Damn, I'm popular!
                      Don't flatter yourself...
                      ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                      Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by roykirk1989 View Post
                        I'm willing to bet, however, that not everyone covered by FLSA follows it to the letter.
                        I agree, Chief. FLSA doesn't care about union contracts, just about hours worked.

                        My experience was more along the line of what ScareCrow stated. It had basically become a situation where you had to work extra time off the clock if you wanted to get promoted. If you didn't come in and do any work off the clock you basically had 0 chance of getting a promotion. It was getting out of hand and the union felt taking such an extreme stance was a good way to stop it. It did too. After that you rarely saw anyone coming in to the station on their off duty day. Depending on your viewpoint, that could be good or bad.
                        This helps explain the background of the local's complaint. I suppose when you say that if the candidate wasn't doing some off-duty work they didn't stand a promotional chance because they were "being watched" per se by the administration?

                        Now, how far does this go? For example, we have a promotional process underway at work for 12 officers positions (chiefs, captains, and lieutenants) and the chiefs and captains are required to do a project to submit as part of their panel interview. Virtually all of the candidates I've spoken with a working on their projects at home as time allows. Many of them work in stations with such a call volume that doing it on-duty just isn't an option. Where is the line drawn between "volunteering" and just doing what's necessary to follow the rules of promotion?

                        Furthermore, if a member of the department wants to take classes off-duty, could this be frowned on by the local also? This is an aside from FLSA.

                        I'm really intrigued by this entire thing, I'm sure I'll have a number of other questions along the way...
                        Career Fire Captain
                        Volunteer Chief Officer


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

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Furthermore, if a member of the department wants to take classes off-duty, could this be frowned on by the local also? This is an aside from FLSA.

                          Our career members take classes out of house on and off duty.

                          It's probably a 40 % on-duty/ 60% off-duty split in terms of hours if you look at the staff overall.

                          For myself, it's probably closer to a 20/80.

                          Where does FLSA stand on that?
                          Train to fight the fires you fight.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
                            If you are covered by FLSA the law clearly states that you cannot volunteer where you work. It sets a bad precedent that could easily be abused by management to coerce employees into working for free.

                            However, Officers and Chiefs could receive professional or administrative exemptions. At which point it become a moot point.
                            You cannot volunteer your time to your employer to perform the same duties for which you are paid. It may be splitting hairs, but you can volunteer for your employer to perform other duties; i.e., if you are a cop and the city has a vollie FD, you can vollie for the FD, but cannot perform any cop duties without being paid.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                              Furthermore, if a member of the department wants to take classes off-duty, could this be frowned on by the local also? This is an aside from FLSA.

                              Our career members take classes out of house on and off duty.

                              It's probably a 40 % on-duty/ 60% off-duty split in terms of hours if you look at the staff overall.

                              For myself, it's probably closer to a 20/80.

                              Where does FLSA stand on that?
                              Training time. (per Fair Labor Standards Act)

                              Most training time is work time. All training time is work time if it occurs during an employee's regular shift, or if it is required by the employer. Training time need not be counted as work time only if it (a) occurs outside of an employee's normal work schedule, (b) is truly voluntary (as in with neither direct nor indirect pressure on the employee to attend, and with no "come back" if the employee chooses not to attend), (c) not directly related to the employee's current job (i.e., the training is designed to qualify the employee to get a new job, and not to enhance the skills used by the employee on the existing job), and (d) the employee does no other work during the training.
                              The most important task on the fireground is the one YOU have!

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