1. #1
    Lt. Frank
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Why can't I volunteer my time FLSA?

    As a career union Firefighter in a combo dept. the FLSA (GARCIA LAW) restricts any full time ffer from volunteering their time to their dept. This is not forced time but time for a project, community events, etc. that alot of us fully want to do...but can't!. This has got to be changed. Because one individual got shafted by forced free time it is not right to shaft those of us who willingly give of our time. I am sure the staunch career union brothers will take a pro union stand on this issue. That is their right but not all union brothers and sisters agree with this ruling. All I am asking for is the chance to volunteer my time freely, not forced by management, for the betterment of my dept. and community. I am sure I am not the only one with this opinion and would like to see this law changed. I do understand that some events I can volunteer for but this is almost a "PICK and CHOOSE" method and who gets to pick and choose? Normally it is management..not you. Voice your feelings and maybe someone will see them. It is time for a change.

    This is my opinion and not the views of Hampden Fire Dept.

    Lt. Frank Coombs
    Hampden, Maine

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Unfortunatly I am one who does not agree. You stated that 1 person was forced, that should be your first clue why it is a bad idea. There is nothing to stop the city from expanding on the idea. yes community events may be a worthy cause but as soon as the city gets in a bind some is going to say well why not for recalls or to fill out a shift to make up manpower.no one should have to work for free , and if one guy did next time it may be 2or3 or more. I also work in a combo dept. by working for free you are cutting out the possibility of overtime as well as any need for them to hire additional personel.
    we work with a duty shift of 6.if the event is worthy they should pay you. I will bet you that the police dept does not work events for free. in our town if there are events, fairs ,christmas ,etc there are cops every where all on ot , are you a second class citizen. In my state you have to watch out for your pension, or benifits. If you get hurt or die you covers youwhile your volunteering. remember your off the clock.suppose your working an other town now who covers you? Volunteering is fine but if yyou feel as you want to help the town do it for an other org. , Chamber of commerce, little league etc.Volunteer fire man are fine but does that same guy volunteer at his real job, I dont think so.why should you. They pay you for a purpose. Maybe in Maine things are hunky dory but in other parts of the country the cites would take advantage of that change in a big way and to there advantage.

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    So....when does it end? Set that precedent and you and maybe others will be expected to continue to volunteer for things that people should/could be paying for. We are professionals. Our time and expertise is valuable, too. (Otherwise, why would they be requesting it?) I understand your wanting to be nice, but from what I have learned, you would just be setting yourself up. There might be no easy answer, but only by sticking together and demanding fair compensation for our expertise, will we ever command the respect we have so long deserved!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 1999
    Roswell, GA, USA


    I can fully understand why a career FF wouldn't or shouldn't volunteer at his/her paid department. It does have too much potential for abuse. However, I don't see how any paid dept. can dictate that a FF can't volunteer on off days. Many depts. I've known do this. Some have said it's because they don't want their FFs getting hurt at another dept's fire.

    Uh, but they let those same FFs play softball, go skydiving, white water rafting, etc. Am I missing a point about keeping their FFs safe while off duty?

    My feeling is that if an employer wants to regulate your activities during "off" time, it's not "off" time, and the employee should be paid 24 hours a day.

    The county FD that protects my place of employement hires it's off-duty FFs to work as part-time fire marshals. Volunteer to sign up for, but paid once in action. I've heard of other depts. that do that for fire prevention and other "less glamourous" positions. Perhaps, Lt. Frank, that can happen in your department.

    Rick Reed
    Do it right, do it safely, do it once.

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I have to agree with what I've read so far. I've been in the position of thinking, "OK, it's just a community evewnt, why not?" But then I think a little more. What happen if I get hurt? My town's history is such that if I got hurt at a "volunteer" function, the administration would run away from me so far and so fast that Olympic track and field records would fall.
    I guess on one hand it's encouraging that you have an employer who you feel would treat you right. Unfortunately, others are not in the same position.
    As unpleasant as it can be on occasion, I think the Garcia/FLSA issue is right where it needs to be. They town already gets a break by not having to pay us OT until we hit 53 hours in a week. What more do they want?
    If our services are worth having, they are worth paying for.
    I guarantee you that the minute we start working OT for free, there will never be paid OT again, and the town would look to go back to an all-call or volunteer status, something which has proven unworkable and unsafe repeatedly here. Not just for the firefighters, but for the residents and visitors of the town.
    I don't mean to pick a fight, but there's my $.02 worth.

    PS---I would bet my right arm that it was the abuse of far more than one employee that prompted FLSA.

    Stay Safe.
    You asked for my opinion, now you have it. It's mine and mine only. Any similarity to another opinion...living or dead...is purely coincidental.

    [This message has been edited by 9m18 (edited June 03, 2000).]

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our local members work community projects on our days off. ie MDA, Christmas Gifts, and the like. You can come up with many different ways to give back to the community other than volunteering for the same department you work at.

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I too do support the principal of FLSA and not "volunteering" for your paid department. It's just too easy to abuse, and if the town expects extra work, they should budget for it.

    However, depending on the situation you may have some leeway in carefully worded job descriptions, especially avoiding those "and other professional duties as assigned..." type clauses.

    It might be work on the fire department's historical archives, or restoring an old truck, or even serving on a committee. If it's not part of the job description, not a traditional role in your community for a paid firefighter, etc you may be able argue logically it isn't part of the job you are paid for but a distinctly seperate function.

    Turning this around, one town near me employees two full time equivelant "Fire Maintainers." They are volunteer firefighter/EMTs, however their operational activities are under the volunteer side and fall under the insurance and other structures from that. As Maintainers, they have a very specific job description that is limited to performing basic truck maintenance, maintaining hand and power tools, and performing janitorial functions at the 3 fire stations. They are not paid as firefighters (falling under the 40 hour work week, etc), but to take over routine maintenance work so the 70 vollies can focus their time on training and calls. The Town also maintains specific job descriptions for volunteer firefighters & officers so the roles of each side are clearly deliniated.

  8. #8
    Lt. Frank
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I knew I would take some heat when I posted this topic. Thanks to those that have replied and to those in the future...whatever your opinion may be. Mine has still not changed and I do feel that this law needs to be revisited and some considerations made.

    This is my view only and not that of Hampden Fire Dept.

    Lt. Frank Coombs
    Hampden, Maine

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Yeah, it kinda sucks Frank...and I'd feel the sameway as you if I was paid. On the other hand, I think most all of us on both sides of the arguement can see why the law is there and how employees could be abused!

    Now, at the risk of really stirring up a Hornet's nest, I've always been a little surprised that the fire service hasn't gone salaried, but I guess I understand that too. OT is nice


  10. #10
    Firehouse.com Guest


    My understanding is the FLSA rule exists to protect YOU. It's not intended to keep you from participating in a community function. If I understand correctly, you are referring to parades, special events where the FD and it's equipment are shown to the public, public education, etc, correct?

    In my town, the city would not pay for FF to provide fire safety education to the public schools, even one week a year. They claimed the OT was too expensive. Well, the local Red Cross and the FF union got together and created a fire safety education committee and we taught fire safety as a "public service." As a union, we felt the need was too great to ignore and the program went over so well we received grants for a fire safety "smokehouse," all the materials and other equipment.

    Now, the city is paying lots of OT for FF to teach all the elementary school children the "Learn Not To Burn" program and the "Risk Watch" program began in the upper grades this year. Basically, the union did the work for free with the expectation that the city would eventually be FORCED to pay us for something the city should've done anyway. It took the lobbying of the Red Cross and the schools along with city FF's doing the work wearing union shirts, displaying union signs and proudly explaining the work was done by their off-duty full-time FF's.

    The FLSA protected us because the city couldn't force us to do the work for free after we had the program up and running. Our "volunteer" efforts forced the city to do the right thing and provide the public education as part of the service the department provides and pay its members to do the job.

    BTW - the union carries Worker's Compensation insurance and all members are covered during any "sponsored" activity. Also, the activities were endorsed and organized by the union as a whole, not by any one individual.

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