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Employees Serving as Volunteer Emergency Responders

From time to time employers will have an employee who also serves as a volunteer emergency responder. As you might expect, given the important role volunteer emergency responders play in our communities, Indiana law provides certain protections for these employees.

Generally, private employers cannot discipline an employee who is also a volunteer firefighter or member of a volunteer emergency medical services association for (1) being absent from work by reason of responding to a fire or emergency call provided the call was received before the time the employee was to report to work; (2) for leaving the employee’s duty station to respond to a fire or emergency call if the call was received after the employee has reported to work so long as the employee has secured authorization from the employee’s supervisor; or (3) for injury or absence from work because of an injury that occurs while the employee is engaged in firefighting or other emergency response so long as the employee’s absence from work does not exceed 6 months from the date of injury.

While employers generally cannot discipline employees for emergency response incidents, in most cases employers are also not required to pay salary or wages to an employee who has been absent from employment for the time away from the employee’s duty station (although some may choose to pay the employee voluntarily). In instances where the employer does not voluntarily pay for time away, the employee may, nevertheless, seek remuneration for the absence through (1) vacation leave; (2) personal time; (3) compensatory time off; or (4) in the case of an absence from employment due to injury, sick leave.