In one of the most shocking developments this legislative year in the labor and employment area, the Governor signed AB 220 – the Firefighter Bill of Rights (FBOR). The newly enacted statute gives firefighters the same basic rights as peace officers under the Peace Officer Bills of Rights (POBAR). The requirements of AB 220 include:
* Specifying the conditions under which investigations and interrogations that may lead to punitive action of firefighters must be conducted;
* Requiring that any punitive action against a firefighter be taken within one year of discovery;
* Requiring that a firefighter be allowed to read and sign any adverse comment before it is entered into their personnel file.
* Prohibiting forced lie detector tests of a firefighter;
* Specifying that a firefighter cannot be required to disclose financial information unless otherwise required by law or court order;
* Requiring that a fire chief, prior to removal, must be provided with written notice stating the reasons for removal and an opportunity for administrative appeal;
* Allowing a firefighter’s locker or other storage space to be searched only in the firefighter’s presence, or with their consent, or with a valid search warrant.
While there may be sound public policy reasons for POBAR, it is difficult to fathom why firefighters need the same protections. Amazingly, AB 220 received almost full Republican support in the Assembly, and that support likely explains why the bill was signed.