WASHINGTON—Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Senator Jim Webb, D-Va. Wednesday introduced “time trade” legislation that would  allow federal firefighters to exchange shifts without affecting the amount of overtime they earn in any given pay period.  Congressman John Sarbanes, D-Md., introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Exchanging shifts enables firefighters to meet both professional and personal obligations, particularly since they work non-traditional work schedules, typically with large blocks of time at work alternating with large blocks of time off. Supervisors have been wary about allowing shift changes because they can affect overtime payouts.

            “This legislation gives federal firefighters the ability to exchange shifts to accommodate their needs without affecting their overtime pay,” Lieberman said. “Towns and cities across the country have similar arrangements, and our federal firefighters deserve the same.  I am pleased to join with my colleagues to introduce a bill that promotes workplace flexibility without compromising the ability of first responders to respond to emergencies and protect their communities.  We will continue to work with all interested parties to ensure the law benefits our brave firefighters as well as the people they serve.”

            Webb said: “It is only fair that federal firefighters have the same scheduling flexibility as the municipal firefighters with whom they often serve. This sensible provision will not increase costs to the federal government and specifically prohibits overtime pay for traded time.”

            Sarbanes said: “Federal firefighters work side-by-side with their non-federal colleagues, so this is an issue of equity. Correcting this inequity will help federal agencies recruit and retain firefighters. Just like other firefighters, federal firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis. They also accept the irregular hours that their jobs require. This legislation merely gives them some modest flexibility to balance that irregularity and meet their family obligations.”

            Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives last year.