Police, Firefighters, EMS and Rescue Personnel

  • Fire protection personnel are employees working for an organized fire department or fire district who have been trained for and have the legal authority and responsibility to engage in the prevention and control of fires.
  • Law enforcement personnel are employees who are empowered by State or local ordinance to enforce laws designed to maintain peace and order, protect life and property, and to prevent and detect crimes; who have the power to arrest; and who have undergone training in law enforcement.
  • EMS and rescue personnel are employees trained to “rescue” the victims of fires, crimes and accidents. While generally speaking EMS and rescue personnel must be treated, for overtime purposes, the same as any other government employee, some public employers attempt to fit them into the exemptions allowed for firefighters.

Firefighters and police officers must be paid minimum wage and overtime for any hours worked over 53 per week. Time sleeping and eating may be excluded under certain conditions. Hours may be figured on the basis of a “work period” instead of the traditional weekly calculation. Under certain conditions rescue and law enforcement personnel may receive “comp” time rather than overtime pay.

Officers may be exempted from overtime pay if they perform primarily supervisory duties and are paid a salary instead of hourly wage. There are specific legal standards that apply to the determination of exempt officer status.

Public safety employees often spend many hours on-call when they are not on duty. Under some circumstances this time must be included in hours worked for overtime purposes. One of the conditions to counting this time is that that the on-call time must have been used mainly for your employers benefits. Generally speaking that means that your employer must have placed some limits on how you may use your time when you are on-call.

Other Factors:

  1. the average number of calls you must respond to during that time
  2. time spent on the call after being called in
  3. whether or not you may be punished for lateness or not making it to a call at all

Often firefighters and rescue personnel work 24 hour shifts, during these shifts they are required to sleep on-site. If your employer meets the two requirements below up to 8 hours of sleep time per shift can be subtracted from paid hours:


  1. The shift must last more than 24 hours, AND
  2. You must have agreed with your employer that the sleep time may be subtracted.

The agreement does not have to be “express,” meaning that you and your employer discussed the situation and decided to subtract the time; it may be “implied,” meaning, for example, that your employer has been subtracting the 8 hours and you have never complained about it. Implied agreements are not limited to the previous example.

Similar to sleep time, public safety employees often take meals on-site due to long shifts. Again employers may only subtract this time for paid hours if all the following conditions are met:


  1. The shift must last more than 24 hours
  2. The employee must be completely relieved of work duties during the meal time, AND
  3. There must be an agreement, express or implied, between you and your employer.
  • Arson Investigators. Fire investigators are not treated to same way as firefighters for overtime purposes. If you are a fire investigator you are entitled to overtime pay after 40 or 43 hours of work instead of after 53.
  • Dispatchers. While the work of dispatchers is a key part of the work of firefighters, police officers and rescue personnel, they are not treated the same way under the law. Dispatchers must be paid overtime when work time exceeds 40 hours a week.
  • EMS. Usually EMS personnel are treated the same as any other public sector employee, meaning they are due overtime pay after 40 hours of work. However, many employers try to fit them into the firefighter 53 hour scheme in order to avoid paying overtime. Employers may use the 53 hour structure if four criteria are met.


  1. You must be an “integral part” of fire protection activities
  2. You must be trained to “rescue” victims of fires, crimes and accidents
  3. You must be sent to fires, crime scenes and vehicle accidents on a regular basis
  4. You must spend at least 80% of your work time on fire protection/rescue duties
  5. Note that cross-training in fire and rescue is a essential part of these requirements

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