October 16, 2013 Articles

Are Volunteers Considered Employees under the FMLA?

The Sixth Circuit thinks so.

By John S. Austin – October 16, 2013

On August 15, 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that “volunteer” firefighters, who were not required to respond to calls but were paid $15 an hour if they did so, were employees entitled to protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The case arose when a city dispatcher sued the city under the FMLA following the termination of his employment. The district court entered summary judgment against the plaintiff because it held that the 25–30 “volunteer” firefighters could not be counted as employees under the FMLA. Without them, the city did not have more than 50 employees. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed.

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