Salary Issues Continue to Plague the Borrego Springs Fire Protection District
Last updated 6/3/2021 at 12:45pm
The Borrego Springs Fire Protection District (BSFPD) has agreed to a $100,000 settlement with twenty-five firefighters, following a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit filed, May 2020.
According to an order filed on May 11, 2021, in California federal court. U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz approved a joint agreement between the BSFPD and 25 employees. The terms of the settlement require the District to pay a total of $100,000 to a total of 25 firefighters. Individual firefighters will collect between $17,316 and $109 depending on the number of overtime hours worked during the time in question. Additionally, the BSFPD will pay the firefighters’ attorneys a total of $35,000 in fees and costs.
“The agreement was a compromise, and amicability settled, which is good for all parties,” according to David. E. Mastagni, attorney for the fire fighters.
Fire Chief John Hardcastle declined to comment.
In the class action lawsuit, the fire fighters alleged the district failed to include all remuneration in the firefighters’ regular rate of pay. Specifically, according to court documents, the firefighters allege “the district did not include money paid directly to firefighters in lieu of employer sponsored medical benefits, paramedic certification, and holiday in lieu pay in their regular rate of pay.”
The FLSA requires “all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee” included in an employee’s regular rate of pay. Failure to include all remuneration in an employee’s regular rate will lead to shorting that employee’s overtime rate. Employers often mistakenly believe an employee’s hourly rate set in a labor agreement or city policy is automatically the employee’s regular rate for FLSA purposes. However, the FLSA requires the regular rate to be based upon “actual facts” and not simply an agreement of the parties.
In a previous Borrego Sun article, dated, April 2020, Chief Hardcastle disclosed that the district was losing qualified first responders and new recruiting was not encouraging, due to the fact the Borrego based first responders are paid about 29 percent less than competing agencies in the county and state.
To address the problem, the District placed a measure on the San Diego County, November 6, 2018, general election ballot. While a clear majority (56 percent) of Borregans approved Measure PP that would have increased District funding by $720,000 per year, more than enough to cover the wage shortfall now and going forward, but it fell short of the 2/3’s majority needed for passage.
Measure PP was an attempt to raise a special parcel tax. After its failure to pass, Chief Hardcastle said, “It is unfortunate that the measure did not pass, and we appreciate the community support that the Fire District received. As cost increases continue to outpace revenue growth, a change in the services the Fire District provides may need to be considered.”