Proposed Bill Protects Rights of Volunteers - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Miner, MO

Proposed Bill Protects Rights of Volunteers

Proposed Bill Protects Rights of Volunteers
By: CJ Cassidy

MINER, Mo. - Would you favor a new law protecting people from losing their jobs, if they volunteered to help clean up after a major disaster?

That's exactly what would happen if a Homeland Security Bill, now making it's way through the Senate, becomes law.

A local man hopes it passes because he says he knows exactly what can happen otherwise.

Wayne Harris will never forget the devastation he saw in Caruthersville after last year's tornado.

He was part of a first responder volunteer team sent to the area.

"On the way down there, I called my supervisor and left a message.  I got a phone call the next day, to see if I was at work.  I said no. He says 'Well we don't have a job for you,'" Harris said.

At the time, Harris worked for Tipton Linen, delivering linen to hotels and restaurants.

"I actually thought that he would have a heart.  He would actually be supportive in having one of employees helping out a community in need," Harris said.

Tipton owner, Tom Tipton claims Wayne Harris never called.  He said Harris simply didn't show up.  Tipton said Harris may have called hours after he should have shown up, but added "We knew he was quitting anyway; his heart wasn't in it.  As long as I can get my product to my customers, I encourage people to volunteer."

"I had no intention of quitting, it was a good paying job.  It was rough.  The bills started backing up, when I was out of a job and I lost a few things," Harris said.

Scott County First Responders back Harris.

In a letter, they say "Mr. Harris was told he had to be at work, not at a disaster to help people."

Like Wayne Harris, other volunteers believe a law protecting their jobs would bring them peace of mind when they take on the horrors of a disaster.

"They have families to raise.  Without a job they can't get anywhere," he said.

Harris now has another job, but he also continues to volunteer.

At last check, the bill is moving through the Senate.  If they pass it, the president must sign off on the bill before it becomes a law.

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