February 15, 2009
US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Volunteer EMTs
Filed under: News
Vision Payroll

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2008-13. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This Opinion Letter examines whether under the FLSA paid emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may also volunteer their services for the local volunteer emergency crew (crew). The crew in question started providing emergency services in the county in 1970. A tax-exempt volunteer organization, it maintains it own by-laws and policies, elects a Board of Trustees made up of the general public, and maintains virtually complete control over its volunteers. In 2002, the county hired a Director of Emergency Services and five EMTs. The question is whether the paid EMTs may continue to volunteer for the crew under the FLSA.

The DOL considered both the FLSA and the decision in Benshoff v. City of Virginia Beach, 180 F.3d 136 (4th Cir. 1999). It found the following similarities between Benshoff and the instant case:

  1. The volunteer squads provided services before the county became involved.
  2. The volunteer squads had their own officers and directors.
  3. Even though the county holds certification power, the rescue squads reserve the right to accept or reject certified volunteers.
  4. The county provides some funding to the squads, but the squads also have other funding sources.

One difference was that in the case under consideration, the county EMTs performed the same services as the volunteers, while in Benshoff, only the volunteers performed advanced life support.

The DOL concluded that the county has not eviscerated the independent nature of the crew and that the crew remains separate and independent under the FLSA.

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.


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