Michigan Enacts Two-Hatter Protection Law

On October 15, Michigan’s governor signed into law HB 4624, state legislation introduced by Representative Joseph Haveman that enables career firefighters to volunteer in their off-duty time. The law guarantees that, “Collective bargaining between a public employer and a bargaining representative of its employees shall not include the subject of a prohibition on an employee volunteering for or obtaining employment with another fire department.”

Representative Haveman testified at a hearing last year that he introduced HB 4624 in response to the City of Grand Rapids barring career firefighters employed by the city from volunteering during off-duty hours. Several fire service representatives testified at that hearing, including Chief Michael Keefe with the Allendale Fire Department, which has several volunteers that work as career firefighters for the City of Grand Rapids.

“This bill will not only help Michigan retain firefighters, we hope it will set a precedent throughout the U.S.,” said Keefe. “Grand Rapids was singling out volunteer, paid-on-call firefighters and prohibiting them from using their skills and abilities to benefit themselves and their communities.”

In 2008, Connecticut passed similar legislation codifying the right of career firefighters to volunteer during off-duty hours. The Connecticut law bars municipalities from entering into collective bargaining contracts that prohibit paid emergency personnel, including firefighters, from serving as active members of a volunteer fire department during off-duty hours.

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) advocates for the right of volunteer, career, and paid-on-call firefighters to serve multiple organizations or communities. The NVFC’s Volunteer Advocacy Committee maintains a webpage that is intended as an informational resource for volunteer emergency responders who are under pressure to give up or reduce their involvement in volunteering. Volunteer emergency responders can use forms on the webpage to report anti-volunteer bias and/or contact the Volunteer Advocacy Committee.