SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that ensures volunteer firefighters won’t lose their paying jobs simply because they were late or missed work while performing their duties.
“In many communities around Illinois, volunteer firefighters are our frontline first responders, the ones local residents depend on to fight their fires and perform life-saving emergency medical services,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “But most of these volunteers also work paying jobs to provide for their families. They shouldn’t have to worry about losing their jobs simply because they’re providing a critical public service.”
House Bill 4851, sponsored by Rep. Mike Boland (D-Moline) and Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton), creates the Volunteer Firefighter Job Protection Act. The new law says employers of volunteer firefighters in communities with 3,500 people or less cannot dismiss the firefighter for being late or absent to work because he or she was responding to an emergency that occurred prior to the start of the workday. A volunteer firefighter who is terminated in violation of the Act may bring a civil action against the employer by seeking reinstatement to the position, payment of back wages and reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights.
"The people we rely upon who volunteer to protect our communities shouldn't have to worry about losing their job if they go to help put out a fire. These individuals give of their time and put their lives on the line to protect all of us. This law is the right thing to do to help those who are potentially making the ultimate sacrifice for our communities," said Senator Forby.
“Volunteer firefighters are an important part of the fire services, but it can often be difficult to recruit and retain them because of obstacles such as this,” said State Fire Marshal J.T. Somer. “Steps like this that help them protect their financial livelihood while serving their communities should encourage more volunteers to stay on, and benefit everyone in the community.”
"The Governor signing HB 4851 will help to attract and retain volunteer fire fighters who are so crucial to our rural communities,” said Rep. Boland. “No volunteer fire fighter risking his or her life responding to a fire or emergency call should ever have to worry about being fired because they are late or miss work due to their response."
HB 4851 is effective immediately.