FLSA, Vacation and Shift Trades

Today’s burning question: Can a firefighter assigned to a shift position (24-hours-on, 48 hours-off)) take a 24-hour vacation day and then turn around and work on a shift-trade for a person on that same shift? I am really concerned about the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) implications.

Answer: Great question. There is nothing in the FLSA that prohibits a firefighter from taking a vacation day and working a shift trade. However, there is nothing in the FLSA that mandates that an employer allow it, nor gives a firefighter any sort of a “right” to do it.

As a result, the FLSA would leave it up to your fire department to allow or disallow the practice. You should also consult local legal counsel to determine if there are any state law implications of such a practice.

While your question does not ask this, the next logical step in some enterprising young firefighter’s mind will inevitably be “If they let me shift trade while I am on vacation, I should be able to work overtime while on vacation.” That question will have some state and local implications since it could be viewed as double-dipping on compensation. Again, that is a state law issue that must be researched by local counsel.

By the way we will be discussing these and other FLSA and overtime related topics at our FLSA for Fire Departments webinar. The next session is February 9-13, 2021.

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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