The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2008-14. 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 firefighters may also volunteer their services for the private, nonprofit volunteer fire department (VFD) for which they work. According to the DOL, the FLSA “permits public sector employees to volunteer their services to their employing public agency, assuming they provide their services for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons and there is no coercion or undue pressure on the employee, so long as they do not volunteer to provide the same type of services for which they are employed.” Although paid office employees of the VFD may volunteer as firefighters during their off-duty hours, paid firefighters may only volunteer as firefighters so long as their volunteer hours are added to the regular hours for the purpose of determining if these firefighters received the required minimum wage and overtime pay. This is true even if there is no evidence of coercion, since employees are not allowed to waive their rights 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.