U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today addressed firefighters at the annual International Association of Fire Fighters conference and announced the reintroduction of his bill to provide greater work schedule flexibility for federal firefighters.
The Firefighter Fairness and Flexibility Act would correct a longstanding disparity between state, local, and municipal professional firefighters who are able to engage in trade time, and those employed by the federal government who lack the same flexibility
"When an alarm sounds off in the station, firefighters are ready to roll at a moment's notice and put themselves in harm's way to keep our communities safe," said Congressman Sarbanes. "They also accept the irregular hours that their jobs require. This legislation merely gives them some modest flexibility to meet family and other personal obligations as well."
In 1985, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act so that state, local, and municipal professional firefighters could engage in a practice called trade time. Trade time allows two firefighters, solely at their option and with the approval of their supervisor, to trade shifts without affecting the pay of either firefighter.
This change was made because firefighters work uncommon schedules involving 24 hour shifts and 72 hour work weeks, followed by a period of time away from the firehouse. Trade time enables firefighters to meet personal obligations such as attending a child's birthday or assisting a sick family member without exhausting their annual leave. It also ensures that firehouses across the country can maintain staffing requirements and keep our communities safe.
Congressman Sarbanes' legislation would extend the same flexibility to federal firefighters so they, too, could engage in trade time.