New York state has amended its labor law to authorize job absences by volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel during declared states of emergency.
“This law ensures that volunteer firefighters and EMTs who are called to assist in times of a major emergency such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires have a job to go home to,” said Robert McConville, president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.
According to the association, more than 80 percent of the state is covered by volunteer firefighters. Over the past several years, more than one-third of the 1,800 departments have been deployed to other parts of New York on mutual aid assignments.
The law, effective Dec. 22, is intended to protect volunteers against possible retaliation by employers for responding to federal or state emergencies such as severe storms. However, leaves of absence can be refused when they would impose “an undue hardship” on an employer’s business.
Leaves are to be unpaid, or may be charged against any other leave the employee is entitled to.
Volunteers are required to submit advance documentation of membership in a fire company or ambulance corps. The documents also must show the members have duties related to emergencies. After emergency leaves, they can be required to provide notarized statements from their chief or supervisor documenting how the time was spent.
According to the firemen’s association, emergencies can also be declared for cities, towns, villages or counties.
The Business Council of the State of New York said it took no position on the measure adopted by the Legislature earlier this year and signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
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