Part Time Full Time Distinction

Today’s burning question: I am a part-time firefighter. What is the maximum number of hours that I can work without being considered full-time or entitled to the same benefits of the full-time firefighters? I am not concerned about qualifying for benefits I just want to know how many hours I can work.

Answer: There is no universal answer to your question. Every work place will have its own rules/definition on who is full-time and who is part-time – and there are many other jurisdictional issues to considerations: state laws, civil service regulations, collective bargaining agreements, local charters, local ordinances, perhaps even agreements with benefit providers. Each of these may/will affect the definition of part-time and full-time.

Some employers have an overriding concern about part time employees unionizing – so they want to keep hours low, irregular and contingent (note – there is no universal number of hours that part-time employees must work to be eligible to unionize).  Other employers want to avoid having to pay full-time benefits, overtime, or allow employees to qualify for tenured civil service positions.  

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as  Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.

Employers of more than fifty full-time employees must offer their full-time employees affordable health care, or pay a penalty. For purposes of the PPACA, a full time employee is defined as one who works at least thirty (30) hours per week.

To know for sure how many hours is considered to be full-time in your situation you would need to check with a local attorney who can research all of the issues affecting your particular department.

In regards to part-time firefighters, here is a ruling that was issued recently in the state of Maine granting part-time per diem firefighters the right to join the same bargaining unit as full time firefighters in Westbook. Westbrook Per-Diem Findings

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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