WATERVILLE, Maine — A volunteer firefighter from Clinton has filed a lawsuit against her former employer claiming she was fired because she didn't show up for work after helping put out a fire in the overnight hours.

In a complaint in Kennebec County Superior Court, Katherine Billings says she was let go from the Community Care social services agency in Skowhegan after calling in sick one morning last February after working a house fire in Clinton.

The suit claims her dismissal violated a Maine law that protects volunteer firefighters from discharge or disciplinary action if they are absent or late for work because of an emergency response to a fire call. Billings is seeking back pay, compensatory damages and attorney fees.

Community Care Executive Director Kate Davis said she couldn't respond to the allegations because she hadn't seen the lawsuit.

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Comment by Rich on January 30, 2008 at 4:34pm
I think there are a few details that need to be seen first.

What was the time of night of the working fire?
Was she injured or transported to the hospital for any reason?
What was her accual reason for calling sick?
Did she have a disiplinary record of being frequently sick?

There are more I can think of but to me you should only be protected if the fireground operations conflicted with your job. I have had a few timesI was late to work because a call took longer then I had thought. But they overlapped, not hours before hand. I will reserve my opinions due to lack of info. It does suck to loose your job for what should be the right thing to do.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on January 30, 2008 at 1:14pm
I am willing to bet the farm that this young lady will have a cumulative absenteeism issue and not that she was fired for working a fire. We have a volunteer protection law in Illinois that does NOT protect for the rest of your absences; only those that are a verifiable emergency and is accompanied by a note from your department's chief. Nation wide, companies are struggling because of absenteeism. And it's NOT because all the volunteers have fires and MVAs. It's because the weather's too nice, got my income tax back, buddy's home from the service, dog died, sick aunt, went to the concert, got home late, blah, blah, blah. Our company has a point system; a very liberal point system. The problem with giving employees a BANK of days that they can miss is that they will burn them up in a New York minute and THEN when they have a legitimate reason to miss, the company is expected to by "understanding". How many times did Grandma die?
It wouldn't be impossible for someone to be fired for missing work due to an emergency, but highly unlikely and especially if there is a known law and big bucks awarded for violations.
Anyone looking for a farm? I'm betting mine.
Comment by Firegirl on January 29, 2008 at 11:21pm
i can't believe. that a company would be so cold hearted
Comment by Engineco913 on January 29, 2008 at 11:16pm
FASNY there is legislation to make this a federal standard. There are too many volunteers who are losing jobs or being diciplined for being late etc. Yes there are people who abuse the system, but for those who don't they get punished. It is hard enough to find volunteers and retain them, nevermind the added stress of being fired for not going to work because you worked a big job. I bet if her employers home or the business she worked in were on fire they would wish for more volunteers who could be there instead of at work
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on January 29, 2008 at 11:04pm
It might be interesting to see how this plays out. I'm not up on the law in question, which means I'm going to have to go Google and get up to speed, but depending on the wording of the law vs. interpretation, this could have some interesting ramifications on the volunteer fireservice nationwide, not just in Maine.

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