1. #1
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    Default You can't fire me; I volunteered!

    A bill sailing through the Illinois legislature that would provide protection for volunteer firefighters who are late or absent from their regular jobs because they responded to an emergency call will be law very soon, according to sources familiar with the bill.
    Read the story:
    Illinois lawmakers consider bill to help volunteer firefighters

    By Karetha Dodd
    GENESEO -- Many small fire stations like the one in Sherrard are staffed solely with volunteer firefighters. And getting enough volunteers hasn't been easy. But thanks to a new bill that protects volunteer firefighters from losing their full-time jobs because they get stuck at a fire, recruitment efforts may be looking up.
    When tragedy strikes, firefighters are our first line of defense. However, 75 percent of Illinois communities rely solely on volunteers to answer the call.
    Dennis Mallum has been a volunteer firefighter in Geneseo for almost 20 years. "It gives me a reason to give something back to the community," says Mallum. But giving back cost him his full-time job. "I went to a fire call and [my former employer] didn't like it. We got into a heated argument about it and in a roundabout way I lost my job," complains Mallum.
    David Medley, a Colona volunteer, knows the pressure involved with balancing his passion with his 9 to 5. "They would ask me to call in and let them know what's going, but when you're out on a call, that's hard to do," explains Medley.
    "There's a big problem with recruiting and maintaining volunteers today. And there's actually been a drop in the amount of volunteers," says Colona's Fire Chief John Swan. But thanks to Illinois lawmakers, fire departments in small towns will now have an easier time recruiting volunteer firefighters.
    The Volunteer Firefighter Job Security Act forbids employers from terminating volunteer firefighters because they are late or absent due to an emergency call. "It's a great idea. But they are going to find some way if they want to get rid of you for being a volunteer because it takes away from their profits if you're not there," criticizes Mallum.
    Right now, the Act only applies to fire departments in communities with less than 3500 people. But many firefighters say they hope in a few years, lawmakers will be willing to apply the protection to all volunteer firefighters, wherever they are.
    The Illinois Senate already passed the Volunteer Firefighter Job Security Act. Now, the bill is before the Illinois House. Local Representative Mike Boland, the bill's sponsor, says he's confident it'll be a law by next week.
    It's about time!
    CR
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    I am not against this legislation per se. But there needs to be something written in there to prevent abuse by those volunteers who would benefit from it. It is not fair to an employer to put his business on hold for every single call. There should be some discretion used by those responding. Not every call is a life and death emergency. I can also see some folks using the ol' "I was on a fire call boss" excuse for just plain old being late,absent etc. In theory it is a good idea but I would hate to see it taken advantage of.
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    In my department the officer must notify for you ..... also give them a prefabbed memo with incidnet number etc signed by the chief ...all employers got a letter explaining the law to them .
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    Josh and Mikey are right. I can see the "abuse" starting. A system of checks and balances is definitely needed. I think that if you're on a call, make every effort to notify your employer, and when returning from that call get something in writing to take to your employer stating time, date, place etc of the call. It shouldn't be a "note from my mommy" type thing, but some sort of verification is warranted.
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    We've got some people who work for a company that just recently started letting volunteers come in late without getting a "point". The chief has to send a note saying that he/she was on an emergency call. Works for them. We have others that get to leave work for a call without any problems. Depends on the company they work for.
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    All the employer has to do is not allow them to leave work for a call. There is your answer as to abuse. How often will there be a call in the couple of hours before work in a town smaller than 3,500? Once a week?

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    Hey; there's plenty of other systems out there to abuse. Work comp; unemployment; state's medical card program; food stamps.
    This is a bill that is well past due. Will some abuse it? Absolutely. An employee with an absenteeism problem just got another reason to miss work, but I feel that the abuses will be limited to how well a volunteer fire department is ran.
    And I would definitely require a letter with follow up phone call; maybe a newspaper clipping. We have had several employees say that they were going to an out-of-town funeral and then go boating instead.
    Those who cheat will eventually get caught.
    You have to remember that the intent of the bill was to be similar to the protection offered those in the National Guard. When duty calls, we must answer the call.
    I am a little cynical also. I understand why there would be concerns and by voicing concerns, maybe that will close a few loopholes as well.
    Abuse comes in many forms.
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    I don't like it one bit. Why should the government have to step in when some hoopie whacker is irresponsible enough to go to calls just before work? I have never been late for work due to a call, lucky? no, responsible. Yeah, it may suck staying in bed when you know you wouldn't get back in time, but My job is my livelyhood, and I'm not gonna mess it up by going out to play woo woo on the BRT. This has a real bad side effect in that employers could look at as volly firefighter and pass him up for employment when there are equally qualified canidates that would show up every day. Like I said, I don't like it. It has been my experience that most small business owners and even some larger ones are pretty flexible if prior atrrangments are worked out between firefighters and their bosses, and as long as they're on the same page there usually aren't any issues. I just don't understand this need for a law. Now, if a business does have a problem with one of their real american heroes, they're stuck with them.

    -Nick

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    Hi, Nick;
    Chief Hoop E. Whacker here. Well, actually ChiefReason.
    You seem to have a strong opinion about this bill. But consider this:
    I was a volunteer firefighter for 22 years before I became a fire district trustee and never lost my job or was even reprimanded due to poor attendance or tardiness. Ever! On every application and even on my resume, I alluded to the fact that I was a volunteer firefighter. We discussed it at the time of my interview and my prospective employer said it wouldn't be a problem if I had to leave work or if I came in late. Just call in if I could. Again; I never had a problem.
    I am sure call volume is going to be a factor, but then, most volunteer departments that run 3-4 calls a day have a duty roster and shift rotation so that those not at work are on duty and those that are at work can either leave by agreement with their employer or can't.
    I can see this bill hurting the small businesses and the self-employed. Where you don't have the luxury of having someone fill in while someone is answering a call, it could hurt productivity.
    Remember; this bill doesn't allow for employees LEAVING work to answer a call. It allows for being late or missing work because you are on a call. It is the employer's right to keep you at work and not on a fire call.
    And with proper documentation, it is a good bill.
    This has a real bad side effect in that employers could look at as volly firefighter and pass him up for employment when there are equally qualified canidates that would show up every day.
    I disagree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Were I the employer, I would add weight to the candidate if he is involved in his community. However, if you think that it could be a detriment to getting hired, then leave it off your resume/application.
    Most companies have an attendance policy. Most companies are flexible when it comes to last minute absences. But excessive tardiness or attendance can hurt business. There will be a few vollies that will push the envelope and they might make the headlines, but realistically, if the employer is unhappy with the vollie, he will terminate him for any reason other than he is a volunteer firefighter who misses a lot of work. It will be for some other well documented reason.
    And let's face it, Nick; real whackers don't have jobs anyway. They collect aluminum cans and chase fire trucks.
    CR
    Last edited by ChiefReason; 05-24-2004 at 11:24 AM.
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    Ohio has one of these bills..as alluded to by Josh. I think its great!!! At my second job my boss knows that if my pager goes off....the crap has hit the fan and I need to go. They have no problem because due to my job I am the most qualified person in the Corp to do my job. And it didn't cost them 1 penny. BTW. I am in charge of Safety/EMS at a LARGE Company, which includes EMS and HAZMAT. And all that training and experience was free so they don't have a problem.
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    Originally posted by ChiefReason
    Hi, Nick;
    I can see this bill hurting the small businesses and the self-employed. Where you don't have the luxury of having someone fill in while someone is answering a call, it could hurt productivity.

    CR
    Hurt the self empolyed? I happen to be one of them and, yes, the fire service does hurt sometimes. BUT, I volunteered to help and help I do whenever I can. Unless I am doing something where I absolutly could not leave (like finishing concrete or something) I drop what I'm doing and go. We only run about a dozen calls a month, most of them EMS that wouldn't require anybody to leave their job anyway. We have people around at different times to do that. For the 20 or so calls where we could use all the help we can get, it would be really nice for those people not to have to leave to go to work. CR, I agree - we need this law so that those that truly believe the fire service is worth volunteering for.
    Jack Boczek, Chief
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    Well it sounds like were all responsible adults here, we don't have problems with our employers because we're on the level with them. This law doesn't really do anything for us then does it? So who does it protect? Irresponsible firemen who give us all a bad name. When I interviewed for my current job, my boss was leary about me because he had had a bad experience with a Hero volly before, the guy would just not show up, or show up late and attribute it to fire dept business. I assured him I was more mature than that and there hasn't been a problem.

    I'm not sure what you meant by not putting the fire service on an application, but I can only imagine an employers dismay when all of the sudden out of the blue Joe Blow doesn't show for work, then he can't fire him because he's a volunteer.

    LOOK, I'm, sure the law was well intentioned, but I just see it as more un needed legislation that protects the less mature and responsible among us.

    -Nick

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    Hurt the self empolyed? I happen to be one of them and, yes, the fire service does hurt sometimes. BUT, I volunteered to help and help I do whenever I can. Unless I am doing something where I absolutly could not leave (like finishing concrete or something) I drop what I'm doing and go.
    Jack; that's exactly what I meant.
    Our chief is a self-employed carpenter. More often than not, they are doing a job that requires two people to do. Incidentally, his other guy is an EMT. If he working concrete or on a roof, he can't go, but if they are on the ground and have to leave, they don't get paid while they're gone. If it's a bid job, then it just set their start date on their next job back. So, it takes a very unique person to volunteer, knowing that their business could suffer as a result.
    I think this bill will provide better incentive for attracting and retaining volunteers. It sure can't hurt.
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    Originally posted by ChiefReason

    I disagree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Were I the employer, I would add weight to the candidate if he is involved in his community. However, if you think that it could be a detriment to getting hired, then leave it off your resume/application.
    I would feel the same way too if I were hiring sombody, but most small business owners are looking for reliable help, and sometimes can't afford to have a worker who may not be at work everyday. Again, I've heard of very very few instances where an upfront and honest employee has had an issue with their boss. Furthermore, is it really up to the company to accomadate to its workers hobbies or is it the employees job to find employment that works with their own lifestyle?


    Originally posted by ChiefReason

    And let's face it, Nick; real whackers don't have jobs anyway. They collect aluminum cans and chase fire trucks.
    CR
    Point taken..... But how do they buy all the stickers, lights and t-shirts????

    -Nick

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    But how do they buy all the stickers, lights and t-shirts????
    Easy; they cash in the aluminum cans at 43 cents a pound.
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    But back to the serious discussion.
    If there weren't straight shooters as both employers and volunteer firefighters, then imagine the cost of fire protection to smaller communities.
    There has to be a balance and if a firefighter is wrapped so tightly that he feels that he HAS to make every call, then you have bigger problems than this bill will create.
    For many of us, it isn't a hobby. It's an avocation. It's like a second job. It has to be treated like a job, because so many things can go wrong when you don't take it seriously.
    If we do this thing professionally, then there won't be any problems.
    But that's a big "if".
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    Originally posted by ChiefReason
    If we do this thing professionally, then there won't be any problems.
    But that's a big "if".
    CR
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    -Nick

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    LOOK, I'm, sure the law was well intentioned, but I just see it as more un needed legislation that protects the less mature and responsible among us.

    Balanced with the increasing corporate america...Hi, I'm the Store Manager...and my entire leeway is whether I read the Corporate Manual from front to back, or back to front.

    Sometimes you need to regulate back against companies that want to have their cake (locate in low-tax rural areas) and eat it too (not contribute in kind to the community).
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    Originally posted by NickSBFD6


    I would feel the same way too if I were hiring sombody, but most small business owners are looking for reliable help, and sometimes can't afford to have a worker who may not be at work everyday. Again, I've heard of very very few instances where an upfront and honest employee has had an issue with their boss. Furthermore, is it really up to the company to accomadate to its workers hobbies or is it the employees job to find employment that works with their own lifestyle?





    -Nick
    Most calls won't take a worker away all day. In fact I don't remember any of ours that would have. If it's a small business, somebody else will pick up the slack for a couple of hours.
    I don't look at my job at the FD as a hobby. I could certainly find somethat that didn't take so much mandatory time to use as a hobby. It's a job and a really important one. Might not pay a lot, but it's great satisfaction.
    Now, picking up aluminum cans along the highway, that's a hobby.
    Jack Boczek, Chief
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    Now, picking up aluminum cans along the highway, that's a hobby.
    Jack; around here, it's called "Adopt-A-Highway".
    Your civic group will get their name on a sign. All's you have to do is pick up the junk that the slobs and slugs throw out their vehicles' windows or leave alongside the roadway. My personal favorite is poopey diapers!
    CR
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