Long before there was LOSAP, fire departments had by-laws that outline membership requirements. 50 years ago, those by-laws were usually strictly enforced, because there was often a waiting list of people waiting to become a member. So firefighters had incentives to meet those requirements, otherwise risk being dropped as an active member. That is also why there were leaves of absence for different reasons - so firefighters could maintain their membership during periods of time in which they were unable to meet those by-law requirements.
Over the subsequent years, membership rolls have shrunk, and departments are starving for volunteers. Few fire departments, if any, have full membership rosters. The enforcement of older, and sometimes more demanding, by-laws have become harder to enforce since departments don't want to turn away current volunteers.
When LOSAP came into existence in NY Sate in 1990, it came with the LOSAP Point System. The LOSAP Point System is a different set of requirements that must be met to earn the the benefit provided by the LOSAP. In some cases, earning the 50 points was "easier" than meeting the by-law requirements to be in good standing. For example, a by-law requirement could be to respond to 20% of alarms, yet the LOSAP Point System requires at maximum a 10% response requirement to earn 25 points. Therefore, a volunteer could fail to meet the by-law requirements yet earn 50 points.
Many fire departments and/or municipal sponsors felt that a volunteer that didn't meet the by-law requirements in a year should not be allowed to earn a LOSAP benefit for that year, even if the volunteer earned 50 points. While that may be understandable and even reasonable, the statute governing LOSAP does not permit a LOSAP sponsor to deny a firefighter that earned 50 points the benefit for the year.
This was directly addressed in an August 2010 audit of the Armor Volunteer Fire Company performed by the Office of the State Comptroller. In the audit report, the State auditors commented:
The Company’s by-laws and point system require members to be in good standing as a condition for receiving service award credit. This is intended to ensure that members are contributing to the essential functions of the Company and are properly trained to fulfill their duties. To be in good standing, a member must meet minimum requirements in four of the seven service award activities. Statute does not require active members to meet specific Company-imposed good standing requirements as a condition for receiving service award credit. Rather, once an active member earns a minimum of 50 points within a calendar year, service award credit should be awarded to that member for the year.
The last sentence states it plainly - once an active member earns 50 points within a calendar year, the member earns service credit and the service award benefit for the year.
An analogy to this would be to consider an employment scenario. The by-laws are like an employer's performance standards and the points are pay received by an employee. A company might hire a salesman, and sets certain sales targets. In other words, the employer sets performance standards. If that salesman works and makes sales, the company must pay him for the time and any commissions or incentives earned for those sales. However, if the salesman fails to meet those sales targets, the employer may decide to fire the salesman for failing to meet the designated performance standards. But again, that salesperson would still be paid for the time worked and sales actually made.
In the same way, an individual who has been approved as an active volunteer firefighter must be "paid with points" for the activities attended. If the volunteer ends up with 50 points, then service credit and the service award benefit is earned. If at the same time the volunteer does not meet the by-law requirements then the department can take the necessary disciplinary action, including dropping the volunteer from the active rolls.
As usual if you have questions about this with your own department, contact your attorney.
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