Burning Question: Volunteers and the FLSA for Fire Departments Conference

Today’s burning question: I am a volunteer fire chief and have been very interested in taking your FLSA course May 11-14, 2021. Is there any way to just take the section related to volunteer issues at a reduced rate? The other sections are interesting but are not the focus of what I need to know.

Answer:  Unfortunately, a discount to just attend a portion of the class is not possible, nor is it advisable. It would be like wanting to learn about first aid but only wanting to know how to splint a broken leg. You miss the classes on blood loss, wound care for compound fractures, shock, how to take vital signs, carries, etc. and you didn’t even realize that treating a patient with a fractured leg connects to those issues.

The FLSA is like that. First of all, I do not think most of us would fully understand the volunteer section without having attended the introductory section where we explain the difference between statutes, regulations and opinion letters; the role the US Department of Labor plays compared to courts; and the state to state differences in wage and hours laws. 

Second, if you do not attend some of the other sections of the program such as the regular rate section, the 207k section, the small fire department exception, or recordkeeping requirements you will not understand the full consequences of turning a volunteer into an employee.

Then there’s the issue of volunteers deploying on paid assignments (often for wildland fires but applicable to other compensable activities as well), paid details, and perhaps most importantly – our section on: what do I do now if we have screwed up…. Those topics are not covered in the volunteer section – but are inter-related. So my advice is to bite the bullet and attend the entire program. Once you attend, you qualify for the $99 special going forward… that allows you to join us again at a future FLSA class for just $99. We hope folks will take advantage of this offer to reattend the program periodically at which time you can attend as little or as much of the program as you choose – in order to to bring yourself up to date with the ongoing changes in the law. Here is the link for more details.

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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