Firefighting, Leadership, Legal

Guide to Managing Volunteer Firefighters Published

For many years, fire chiefs managing volunteer and combination departments have struggled with conflicting interpretations about how to implement Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules. The International Association of Fire Chief (IAFC) has released a new publication, Managing Volunteer Firefighters for FLSA Compliance, providing guidance to fire chiefs about the FLSA rules affecting their departments.

In his introduction to the FLSA Guide, IAFC President Chief Jim Harmes explained the need for this document: “For nearly two decades, fire chiefs have been confused by differing interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). To bring order to this issue, the IAFC sought and gained from the Department of Labor (DOL) a series of letter rulings to clearly define the requirements that individuals must meet to qualify as a volunteer firefighter under FLSA regulations. The IAFC has published this brochure as a guide for fire chiefs and community leaders to better manage volunteer firefighters for FLSA compliance.”

The importance of the Guide cannot be overstated. Chief Harmes reflected on its importance when he stated, “The fire service has waited a long time for clear guidance in how to address this critical issue. The FLSA Guide takes the rulings from the DOL and provides the context and clarity that has been needed and looked for during this time.”

Garen E. Dodge, Esq., and Maria L. Mullarkey, Esq. provided the legal expertise within the FLSA Guide, and Alan Caldwell of the IAFC Government Relations Department and Chief Gary Scott of the Campbell County Fire Department provided the fire service perspective.

The document is divided into 12 chapters:


  • The FLSA Volunteer Exemption

  • Payments to Volunteers

  • Do Volunteer Services Constitute the “Same Type of Services”?

  • Do Two Entities Constitute the “Same Public Agency”?

  • Use of Paid Leave and Compensatory Leave

  • Payment of Wages by Separate Agency

  • Special Detail Exception

  • Working with the Union to Ensure Good Relations

  • Taxation of Payments and Benefits

  • Checklist for Managing Volunteer Firefighters

  • Conclusion

  • Sources of Additional Information

The FLSA Guide is available for purchase through the IAFC’s website, www.iafc.org/publications.