July 18, 2022

New Critical Incident Leave for Police and Fire

The General Assembly passed House Bill 562 in the 2022 legislative session. The amendment to KRS 15.518 and KRS 95A.292 provides 48 hours of leave when peace officers or firefighters are involved in a “critical incident” that is stressful enough to overwhelm the employee’s usual coping strategies. “Critical incidents” may include:

  • Officer-involved shooting
  • Fire or vehicle crash resulting in serious injury or death
  • Being a victim of a felonious assault
  • Death of a partner or colleague
  • Death of someone in the custody of the officer or that has been in the medical care of a firefighter
  • Death of a child, especially if the officer or firefighter has a child similar in age
  • Incident involving multiple deaths

In addition to the above examples, House Bill 562 features lists for police and fire that can be considered critical incidents. Employers must remember that the lists provided are not all-inclusive. Employers should also be aware that it is not only that the incident occurs but that the incident includes a stressful impact that is sufficient enough to overwhelm the employee’s usual coping strategies. The chief, executive authority, and/or city attorney will determine the impact on a case-by-case basis.

Any request by an employee for critical incident leave must immediately follow the incident. The timing, as designated by House Bill 562, will be upon completion of that peace officer's or firefighter’s shift encompassing the critical incident, or when all necessary administrative procedures relating to a critical incident are completed, and when the officer informs their supervisor of the need for the leave.

The legislation does not require that employers pay for this leave. The city’s legislative body must decide on pay before these changes go into effect on July 15, 2022. KLC recommends that police and fire departments adopt a Critical Incident Leave Policy by municipal order. Model Critical Incident Policy updates for police departments were approved this week. The department policy should refer to the city’s personnel policy, which will include language regarding whether the leave provided by the city’s legislative body will be paid or unpaid. In the case of unpaid leave, the city should designate that the employee may use accrued leave or take unpaid time. This legislation does not prevent an employer from providing more than 48 hours of paid or unpaid leave through the city’s personnel policy, employee contract, or bargaining agreement.

The last piece of this legislation amends KRS 337.100 regarding volunteer firefighters, rescue squad members, emergency medical technicians, peace officers, or emergency management members. Employers of these volunteers cannot terminate the employee from their paid position when acting in a volunteer capacity in which they take leave following a “critical incident.”

Contact KLC Personnel Services Manager Andrea Shindlebower Main for sample policies and more information on this or any personnel-related matters.