Almanac

News - July 21, 2010

MP district firefighters sue over overtime, extra trips

by Dave Boyce

Surprised is how Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said he felt upon learning that the district's firefighters had filed a lawsuit in federal court on July 15.

The issues, said John Wurdinger, president of the Menlo Park Firefighters Association, are whether firefighters should be paid for traveling to and from their home stations to pick up equipment such as personalized protective gear and emergency medical kits, and how much they should be paid for overtime.

Chief Schapelhouman would not talk specifically about the district's position. "I was perplexed because we've been having a dialogue," he said. "There was no indication that it was not satisfactory or adequate, nothing that said, 'I can't agree with you and we're going to do X.'"

Firefighters have been complaining about the issues since September in connection with the district's decision last year to pay by the hour instead of by salary, Mr. Wurdinger said. The firefighters predicted the change would open up the district to liability on pay-related issues, he said.

Menlo Park firefighters have been consulting with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in Washington, D.C. The IAFF has offered to take this case pro bono, an indication that its attorneys think they will prevail, Mr. Wurdinger said, adding that he is hoping to settle out of court.

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