New York Enacts Firefighter Bill of Rights

The State of New York has enacted a law entitled “New York State firefighter bill of rights act”. The new law is an amendment to Section 75 of the civil service law. Among its highlights is the mandatory appointment of an independent hearing officer before a paid firefighter can be disciplined or dismissed.

The law is limited to paid firefighters who work for cities of less than one million in population (presumably to exclude FDNY), as well as towns, villages and fire districts. The bill of rights specifies a procedure for the appointment of a hearing officer if the parties themselves cannot agree. It also makes disciplinary matters a mandatory subject for collective bargaining.

Unlike the bill of rights laws that we see in states like California, Florida, New Mexico and Illinois, the New York law does not offer interrogation-specific protections to accused firefighters, such as the right to be free from threats or intimidation while being questioned, the right to written notice of an interview, or limits on the duration of an interview. Rather it is through the appointment of the independent hearing officer and clarifying the bargainability of disciplinary procedures that firefighters’ rights are protected.

The law becomes effective March 1, 2023. Congratulations to those from the New York State Professional Firefighters Association who were responsible for ushering this new piece of legislation. Here is a copy:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 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) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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