Why it matters 

On September 15, 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 2536, which made changes to existing law to allow emergency rescue personnel to take time off to perform emergency duty. The update broadened the definition of “emergency rescue personnel” and added protections for healthcare providers to take emergency duty leave. The lesson for employers: Revisit policies and review training materials to ensure that employees that fall under the new definition of "emergency rescue personnel"—including healthcare providers—are not discharged or discriminated against for taking time off to perform emergency duty. 

Detailed discussion 

The unanimously enacted AB 2536 amended Section 230.3 of the Labor Code. While the law generally prohibits an employer from discharging or discriminating against an employee for taking time off to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, peace officer, or emergency rescue personnel, lawmakers tweaked the statute to protect additional categories of workers.

  • Who is covered: “Emergency rescue personnel” now includes “an officer, employee, or member of a fire department or fire protection or firefighting agency of the federal government, the State of California, a city, county, city and county, district, or other public or municipal corporation or political subdivision … or of a sheriff’s department, police department, or a private fire department, or of a disaster medical response entity sponsored or requested by this state, whether that person is a volunteer or party paid or fully paid.” The new law also added “health care provider,” defined as “any person licensed or certified” pursuant to Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, or licensed pursuant to either the Osteopathic Initiative Act or the Chiropractic Initiative Act.
  • Who is exempt: The law does not apply to any public safety agency or provider of medical services if the employee’s absence would hinder the availability of public safety or emergency medical services.
  • Requesting and designating leave: Employees that fit the definition of “emergency rescue personnel” must notify an employer at the time he or she becomes designated as such and when he or she will be deployed as a result of that designation.
  • Enforcement and penalties: Employees that are “discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment” for taking time off to perform emergency duty are entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits. Further, an employer that willfully refused to rehire or restore an employee determined to be eligible for leave is guilty of a misdemeanor. 

To read AB 2536, click here.