Federal Fire Fighters Secure New Benefits and Safety Measures

January 3 • 2022

Federal fire fighters will enjoy new benefits and safer working conditions with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, signed into law by President Biden. A priority provision for the IAFF in this year’s NDAA will finally permit federal fire fighters to voluntarily swap shifts between two similarly qualified individuals. Other provisions passed as part of the legislation include:

  • Establishing a new parental bereavement leave benefit
  • Resetting the probationary period for newly hired federal fire fighters at the Department of Defense (DOD) to one year
  • Requiring DOD to take greater steps to prevent, mitigate and remediate any release of toxic PFAS-laden firefighting foams
  • Requiring DOD to be more transparent and make available PFAS contamination records
  • Authorizing an additional $15 million to study PFAS health impacts
  • Authorizing the construction of two new federal fire stations located at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania and Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“The demanding 72-hour workweek required of our federal fire fighters is nothing short of brutal. I know firsthand just how difficult it can be to tend to personal or family matters without the flexibility of shift trades,” says General President Edward Kelly. “Correction of this oversight is long overdue, and I am confident this legislative victory will go a long way in resetting the work-life balance of those impacted. I am also very pleased that our federal brothers and sisters will have access to a new parental bereavement leave benefit available to them following the loss of a child. Perhaps most importantly, the provisions around toxic PFAS will provide additional tools to extinguish cancer from the fire service.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation by a vote of 363 to 70 and the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 88 to 11.

When Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1985 granting municipal and state fire fighters’ greater freedom to exchange duty days, no similar benefit was granted to federal fire fighters. With this NDAA, the correction finally grants federal fire fighters’ parity with their non-federal brothers and sisters.

Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME), along with Representatives Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Rob Wittman (R-VA), partnered with the IAFF to ensure the provision was included in the final bill.

To date, upon experiencing the death of a child, federal fire fighters were required to use their vacation leave to cover workplace absences. The parental bereavement leave benefit included in the bill will provide two weeks of paid leave for our federal members in such circumstances.

Finally, the release of PFAS contamination records will aid federal fire fighters seeking workers’ compensation benefits for occupational illnesses.