Questions related to volunteer firefighters under the N.C. Wage and Hour Act are covered by N.C.G.S. § 95-25.14 (b)(1), which states that the minimum wage and overtime rules of the N.C. Wage and Hour Act do not apply to hours worked as a bona fide volunteer firefighter in an incorporated, nonprofit volunteer or community fire department or hours worked as a bona fide volunteer rescue and emergency medical services personnel in an incorporated, nonprofit volunteer or community fire department, or an incorporated, nonprofit rescue squad.
This subsection was added specifically to address the “hybrid volunteer-employee combination” for firefighters and rescue-emergency medical services personnel in incorporated, nonprofit volunteer or community fire departments or rescue squads. Before this change, a paid employee for these organizations could not volunteer to do the same or a similar job that they were paid to perform if the “volunteer” hours combined with the “paid” hours brought the employee below minimum wage or resulted in the employee working more than 40 hours in a workweek. With this change, the N.C. Department of Labor cannot enforce and an employee cannot sue for the payment of state minimum wage or state overtime pay for the “volunteer” hours worked for an incorporated, nonprofit or community fire department or rescue squad when the employee is also a paid employee.
This group of “hybrid volunteer-employee” firefighters or rescue-emergency medical services personnel may still be protected by the federal minimum wage and federal overtime provisions pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for the “volunteer work hours” if they are also a paid employee for the same organization. The federal wage and hour law looks at each firefighter and rescue-emergency medical services personnel on an individual basis to see if they are involved in interstate commerce. The federal wage and hour officials take the position that an individual employee may be covered by the federal minimum wage and federal overtime pay provisions if they respond to a vehicle accident on a public road, and any public street, country road or state highway is considered a public road since all roads lead to an interstate highway. For assistance with federal labor laws, contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s national Call Center at 1-866-4-USWAGE (toll-free) and website.
This subsection does not affect bona fide volunteer firefighters or rescue-emergency medical services personnel who are strictly volunteers where they volunteer 100% of their time. The N.C. Wage and Hour Act does not require payment of wages to bona fide volunteers who only volunteer their services. This subsection also does not affect paid firefighters or rescue-emergency medical services personnel who do not perform any volunteer work at all.
The N.C. Department of Labor can assist if the issue concerns wage payment, which has to do with promised wages such as hourly pay at more than the minimum wage, a promised salary, or shift differential pay; or promised wage benefits such as vacation pay, sick leave, severance pay, jury duty pay, and holiday pay. Governmental employers are not covered by the state wage payment provisions. For more information about workplace rights, contact our Call Center toll-free at 1-800-NC-LABOR (1-800-625-2267).
Revised December 2017