The Emergency Responders Employment Protection Act, as reported in the December 2009 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority, was signed into law on January 14, 2010 (P.L.2009, c.202). Under this new law, which becomes effective April 1, 2010, any member of a volunteer fire company, duly incorporated first aid, rescue or ambulance squad, or any member of any county or municipal volunteer Office of Emergency Management may not be terminated or suspended for failing to report to work due to their service as a volunteer during a state of emergency declared by the President or Governor, or their response to an emergency alarm.
To enjoy the protections of this new law, the employee must provide to the employer: 1) notice that the employee will be performing emergency services at least one hour before he/she was to report to his/her place of employment; and 2) a copy of the incident report and a certification by the incident commander, affirming that the responder was actively engaged in and necessary for the emergency services, upon returning to his/her place of employment. The incident commander may also give the employer notice if the employee is engaged in consecutive days of emergency response. Employers are not expected to pay employees who are absent from work while responding to these emergency situations, but the employees may charge this time as vacation or sick time.
The law does not apply to employees who, by statute or contract, are deemed an “essential employee.” Employers may wish to consider incorporating such language in their employment agreements where applicable.