Volunteer Emergency Responder Job Protection
On September 6, 2013, Governor Jack Markell signed into law House Bills 21 and 22.
House Bill 2, known as the Volunteer Emergency Responder Job Protection Act, makes it illegal for an employer to discipline or terminate a Volunteer Fire Firefighter or Emergency Management Technician (EMT) who misses work due to injuries received serving the citizens. In addition, an employer cannot discipline or terminate a Volunteer Fire Firefighter or EMT called to serve during a state of emergency called by either the President or Governor.
According to Christiana Fire Company
Chief Richard J. Perillo, the idea for the law came from a situation where a company firefighter was fired by a private employer after the firefighter sustained burns to his hands while fighting a house fire last year. The firefighter was unable to return to work for a few days while being treated for his burns and the employer terminated him.
In order for a volunteer fire firefighter or EMT to be protected under House Bill 21, she must notify her employer in writing of her status as a volunteer fire firefighter or EMT prior to her sustaining any injuries. All volunteer fire firefighters and EMTs should notify their employers immediately or at the time of hiring of their status, so as to be covered by this law.
In addition, companion House Bill 22 prohibits any employer from refusing to hire or discriminating regarding the pay, terms or conditions of employment against a volunteer firefighter or EMT because of their status or affiliations.
Takeaway for employers:
- Keep accurate records of which employees have identified themselves as EMTs or volunteer fire fighters.
- Consult with legal counsel before taking adverse employment actions, especially those involving EMTs and volunteer firefighters.
- Put status as an EMT or volunteer firefighter on the ‘do not ask’ list of interview questions.
Author: James A. Landon, Esq. is a member of the firm's Healthcare Industry Team and its Real Estate and Land Use practices.