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Job protection for volunteer emergency responders

Volunteer emergency responders, often put their lives, and livelihoods on the line for their community, and for many volunteers, this is not their only job.

The State Legislature has passed a bill, which aims to give volunteers more protection at their full-time jobs.

Paul Whorrall has been volunteering as the Chief of the Manlius Fire Department for more than 20 years, and says striking a balance between his firefighter duties, and his full time job can be hard.

"Especially being a Chief, I feel it's my obligation to respond to the calls. I have left work, been to work late and you take that chance. And I've been fortunate over the years, my employer has allowed me to leave and come and go if the work warrants it, said Whorrall.

More volunteer emergency responders could soon have that job security since the New York Senate and Assembly have passed the Volunteer Job Protection Act.

The bill says employers cannot fire a volunteer firefighter or EMT, if they are late or miss work, due to an emergency they were dispatched to.

"The worst thing they worry about when they're at an alarm is what time is it. I have to be at work, and in this day and age they can't afford to lose their job or be docked pay. And we can't pick and choose between calls, said Whorrall.

Whorrall says the measure may lead to a higher retention rate. Manlius has only 12 career firefighters, so the department relies on more than 70 volunteers to supplement it's coverage.

Fayetteville also has a combination force and says this bill could be a benefit.

"As long as it's managed internally and it's not something that becomes a problem for people in their workplace, or for us as an organization, and again anything we can use to retain people, said Fayetteville Career Captain John Falgiatano.

20-year volunteer Fayetteville Firefighter Bill Harris says he supports the bill too, "I think it will be good for the volunteers because if you lose your job because you're doing something for the community and giving back to the community, then you are being penalized for something that is intrinsically part of America."

The legislature still has to deliver the bill to the Governor, and Paterson would have to sign it before it becomes law.

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