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HR considerations for volunteer firefighters

  • ​Volunteers do not need to complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9.
  • In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, volunteer cannot be paid compensation. They can receive reimbursement for expenses, receive reasonable benefits and/or receive a nominal fee. In an August 2006 opinion letter, the U.S. Department of Labor explained that "generally, an amount not exceeding 20 percent of the total compensation that the employer would pay to a full-time firefighter for performing comparable services would be deemed nominal."
  • Volunteers cannot be paid an hourly rate at any time. Paying them an hourly rate or issuing them a 1099 violates the FLSA.
  • Volunteers cannot be used as part-time employees to cover when a full-time employee is absent. If used as a part-time employee, the volunteer must be issued a W-2.
  • Volunteers should sign a disclaimer for the fire policies and procedures that is different from the disclaimer used for full–time employees. The disclaimer should specify that it is a volunteer disclaimer.
  • Paid firefighters cannot volunteer the same services for the same public agency for which they are employed. Other city employees can be considered volunteer firefighters because they do not provide the same service for which they are employed.
  • Paid firefighters cannot respond to an incident while off-duty as a volunteer for no pay. They must be compensated for hours worked based on their salary.
  • Paid firefighters can volunteer the same services for a separate and independent public agency.

Information taken in part from "Managing Volunteer Firefighters for FLSA Compliance: A Guide for Fire Chiefs and Community Leaders" produced by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.