Q. I have an employee who is a volunteer firefighter. Although I believe that volunteering is important, his absences to respond to emergencies have disrupted workplace productivity. Can I replace him on this basis?
A. Under California law, individuals who register as volunteer firefighters with a local fire department are protected from adverse employment action based on their need to take time off to perform emergency firefighter duties.
Thus, employers may not terminate, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend or otherwise discipline an employee because he or she has been called away from work to perform emergency duties.
An employee who experiences discrimination based on this type of absence is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and. An employer that is found to have “willfully” discriminated against a volunteer firefighter is guilty of a misdemeanor.