DOJ: News Release

AG: Injured Officers, Firefighters Continue to Accrue Sick, Vacation Leave Credit

HELENA – In a formal opinion released Wednesday, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath held that when police officers and firefighters are injured in the line of duty and continue to receive salary benefits, they also continue to accrue vacation and sick-leave time as if they were still on the job.

The opinion overrules one from 1988, in which then-Attorney General Mike Greely held that employees must be “in a pay status” to accrue benefits. The 1988 opinion concluded, however, that police officers who are injured in the line of duty are not “in a pay status” and so are not entitled to accrue vacation and sick leave credit.

McGrath’s opinion notes that injured officers and firefighters remain on the city payroll and receive payments through the usual payroll process, and state laws dealing with the accrual of annual and sick leave do not specifically exclude city employees in the same situation.

“The legislature provided these benefits in an effort to keep officers and firefighters injured in the line of duty financially whole until they could return to duty or one year elapsed,” the opinion states. “It is my opinion that these officers and firefighters are entitled by statute to accrue sick and vacation credit for the time they are ‘in pay status,’ i.e., not on leave without pay.”

The opinion does not address officers receiving benefits while in a leave-without-pay status or not receiving payments through the usual payroll system.

Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent requested the opinion. Opinions of the attorney general carry the weight of law unless a court overturns them or the legislature modifies the laws involved.

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