Chula Vista firefighters get that overtime money

City says audits will make sure short paychecks don't happen again

The City of Chula Vista will pay more than $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by more then 120 city firefighters over unpaid overtime pay.

The Reader obtained a proposed settlement in a case filed by dozens of city firefighters in August 2016.

The lawsuit alleges that the city knowingly did not pay non-exempt firefighters overtime pay. The statute of limitations is three years for employees to file complaints over pay.

According to Simon Silva, a deputy city attorney who helped with the case, the city discovered the errant payment structure around 2014 after a random audit by the state pension board. The city, says Silva, also conducted an audit confirming that firefighters were shorted one hour of overtime pay per pay period. It then notified the firefighters’ union, prompting the lawsuit.

In a December 15 motion, outside counsel for the city submitted a motion to the court to approve the settlement.

"The parties believe the settlement represents a fair and reasonable compromise of a bona fide dispute. The parties therefore move the court to approve the settlement agreement."

The terms of the settlement require Chula Vista to pay the plaintiffs $538,890 in unpaid overtime pay, $470,426 in so-called "liquidated damages," as well as $29,700 for the plaintiff's attorney fees.

Silva says the city and firefighters’ union have worked together since the lawsuit was filed to ensure the plaintiffs were paid and the miscalculation was corrected.

"We’ve worked amicably alongside the firefighters and their attorney to get the amounts they were owed. It took some time but we are confident that was done," says Silva. "Going forward, we have corrected those issues and will perform audits to ensure that does not happen again."

The settlement is the second that the city has settled this month. As reported by the Reader, the city agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a case filed by the department's deputy fire chief alleging that he was passed up for a promotion after blowing the whistle on misconduct.

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Without the union the firefighters would have been on their own to try and collect back pay from the City. Anyone who would have tried on their own would have been terminated.

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