Saving the jobs of lifesavers
Bill aims to defend employees who also volunteer as emergency responders
BY ANDREW KITCHENMAN two or three employees; “an hour’s notice is not
A BILL MAKING IT harder for a business to dis- really a lot of time to try to replace an employee,”
miss or suspend an employee who misses work to Stearns said.
volunteer as an emergency responder passed the Stearns said it is hard to judge the frequency
Assembly over business objections that the mea- with which problems would occur. She added that
sure is too broad. there is a widespread sense that most employers
Workers would have to give employers one would work through these issues without a con-
hour’s notice before leaving for an emergency call flict occurring.
as a firefighter or first-aid, rescue or ambulance Before the final vote, the bill was amended
volunteer. While the bill doesn’t mandate employers to require volunteers actively take part in emer-
directly pay the workers for missed time, the employ- gency responses, and that they be necessary for
ees would be able to use vacation or sick time. the responses.
Bill sponsor Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty Moriarty expressed doubt that many people
(D-Washington) said he attempted to take busi- would take advantage of the measure, noting many
nesses’ concerns into account in the final version workers would be hesitant to use vacation or sick
of the bill. days. However, those who do find it necessary to call
“There were fears that maybe this would be out from work should not lose their jobs, he said.
abused by first responders,” Moriarty said. “I think that we need to have some sort of
The New Jersey Business & Industry Asso- employment protection,” he said.
ciation opposed the measure. It may have supported Moriarty also said most businesses are happy
the measure if it was strictly limited to states of emer- their workers are willing to make personal sacri-
gency, but the bill includes all emergency calls, said fices for their communities.
Christine Stearns, NJBIA vice president of health “Most employers want good employees, and
and legal affairs. good employees are usually people who are involved
“We want to support the work of first respond- in their community and give of their time,” Moriarty
ers,” Stearns said, but the private sector has work- said. Unfortunately, he said, there are tim