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New protection for emergency service personnel under Substitute Senate Bill 5384

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Under new protections provided by Substitute Senate Bill 5384, emergency personnel will have rights to leave work in connection with their emergency service, including volunteer firefighters, reserve police officers, and members of the Civil Air Patrol.

In the aftermath of wildfires in Eastern Washington last year, it was discovered that volunteer firefighters were prevented from leaving work to fight to protect their family homes merely because they would have been paid as wildland firefighters. Thanks to this new law, volunteer firefighters, including those compensated for wildland firefighting, will now be allowed to leave work to protect their communities.

As L&I clarifies on their website, “Employers with 20 or more full-time employees must allow the above emergency service personnel to arrive late and/or be absent from work when working at, or returning from, a fire alarm or emergency call.

This new law, passed during the 2021 legislative session, updates previous requirements and protects qualified employees from retaliation and prevents the firing or discipline of qualified employees from using this leave. Additionally, these employees are protected irrespective of any reimbursement they might receive or related calls at work.

See RCW 49.12.460 for full details.

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