Delaware Law Prohibits Adverse Employment Action Against Volunteer Emergency Responders
On September 6, 2013, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed into law a pair of measures to protect volunteer emergency responders from employer discrimination or discipline stemming from their volunteer responsibilities. Chapter 7 of the Delaware Code relating to discrimination in employment received a new provision making it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, to discharge, or to otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of such individual’s service rendered to a volunteer fire or ambulance company, or related ladies auxiliary. The “Volunteer Emergency Responders Job Protection Act” was created as a new Chapter 19 of the Delaware Code relating to discrimination in employment. The Act prohibits an employer from terminating, demoting, or taking any other disciplinary action against a volunteer emergency responder:
- Who misses up to 7 days of work while responding to a Governor-declared state of emergency;
- Who misses up to 14 days of work while responding to a President-declared state of emergency; or
- Who is absent from work due to an injury sustained while working as a volunteer emergency responder.
For purposes of the Act, “volunteer emergency responder” means volunteer firefighter, a member of a ladies auxiliary of a volunteer fire company, volunteer emergency medical technician and/or a volunteer fire police officer. Exempted from the Act are essential state employees, members of the armed forces, members of the National Guard, hospital personnel, and public utility workers.
Volunteer emergency responders are obligated to make reasonable effort to notify their employer of an absence due to activity identified in the Act. Employers may require an employee to provide written proof that missed work time and/or an injury resulted from an activity identified in the Act. Employers may subtract from a volunteer emergency responder’s earned wages any time such employee is away because of an activity identified in the Act. Violation of the Act gives rise to a private cause of action, and allows for recovery of lost wages and benefits, court costs, and attorneys’ fees. Where an employment termination violates the Act, the employee shall be reinstated without reduction of wages, seniority, or other benefits; and recover any lost wages or benefits during the period of wrongful termination. Any such action must be brought within 1 year after the date of violation.