Tester’s Bipartisan Bill Will Enhance Flexibility for Federal Firefighters

Senator introduces legislation to allow federal firefighters to switch shifts without risking pay

To correct a longstanding disparity between federal firefighters and their state, local, and municipal counterparts, U.S. Senator Jon Tester introduced the bipartisan Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act, allowing federal firefighters more flexibility in shift trades without risking pay or affecting annual leave.

“It’s no secret that wildfires across the West are burning bigger and longer, meaning our federal firefighters work overtime, putting their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” said Tester. “This critical bill gives them the flexibility they need to better balance their work and home lives, and it saves taxpayer dollars. Switching shifts is common practice among state and local firefighters—it’s only commonsense that our federal firefighters are able to do the same.”

Unlike state, local, and municipal firefighters, federal firefighters can only swap shifts within a two-week pay period. Any shift swaps occurring outside of that period affect the calculation of hours worked and overtime pay, resulting in one firefighter with increased pay and the other with their pay reduced. Consequently, some federal departments refuse to allow their firefighters to switch shifts at all.

The Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act excludes hours worked as part of any trade time arrangement from the calculation of overtime pay for the federal sector. This fix allows federal firefighters to engage in trade time, permitting federal firefighters, solely at their option and with the approval of their supervisor, to trade shifts without affecting the pay of either firefighter. Trade time enables firefighters to meet personal obligations without exhausting their annual leave and helps ensure departments across the country can maintain staffing requirements and keep communities safe.

The Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act is supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

Tester, who is Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, is a longtime champion for firefighters and first responders. He recently secured more than $400,000 through the Department of Homeland Security’s competitive Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to support local departments in Missoula, East Missoula, Great Falls, and Manhattan. Additionally, Tester has demanded that Washington provide Montana’s firefighters with the necessary resources to keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and is leading legislation that protects the pensions of hard-working federal first responders who have been injured on the job.

Full text of Tester’s Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act is available HERE.