Many fire districts have established Length of Service Award Programs (“LOSAPs”) in an effort to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. The service awards provided under these LOSAPs relate to credits earned annually by performing various volunteer firefighting functions for a period of years, and are generally paid on a monthly basis upon the participating volunteer reaching a certain age.
Previously, public employees who serve as volunteer firefighters were unfairly penalized, in that they were not permitted to earn any credit for responding to calls during the individual’s regularly assigned work periods. Effective immediately, this penalty no longer applies.
The Memorandum of Support accompanying Chapter 535 of the Laws of 2015 notes the absurdity of the prior restriction:
Section 217(f) of the [General Municipal Law] precludes a volunteer firefighter who provides firefighter services (generally, emergency services) during his or her “regularly assigned work periods” from receiving LOSAP credit for those services. So, in spite of the increasingly desperate need to attract folks willing to undergo hundreds of hours of required training and stay active for many, many years to earn any marginally-significant LOSAP benefits, public employees are “dis-incented” from providing volunteer firefighter services for circumstances over which they have no control and which may already cause them significant employment-related penalties.
Thankfully, on December 11, 2015, the Governor signed legislation to repeal this penalty, effective immediately.