Chesterton Tribune



CFD's Local 4600 sues Chesterton; town calls the suit 'intimidation'

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Chesterton Fire Department Local 4600 of the International Association of Fire Fighters has filed a six-count lawsuit in federal court against the Town of Chesterton, alleging--among other things--that for nine years the town failed to compensate firefighters appropriately for overtime and that the town failed to negotiate Local 4600’s 2019 contract “in good faith.”

The suit was filed on Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana by Local 4600’s attorney, Angela Jones.

The suit specifically asserts the following:

* That in the relevant period--from at least 2011 to Jan. 1, 2019--the town did not pay firefighters the time and a half to which they were entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

* That the town violated state law when it “refused to meet and confer in good faith” with Local 4600, after the union requested a meet-and-confer in writing on Nov. 27, 2018.

* That the town breached contract with Local 4600 when CFD policy pertaining to Kelly days--otherwise known as reduction days--was “unilaterally changed to greatly inhibit and restrict firefighters’ ability to use” those four annual days. A Kelly day is a paid day off provided to firefighters to reduce a department’s overtime liability. Traditionally, under CFD policy, firefighters have been able to use those four days “the same as their vacation time or as needed,” according to the suit.

* That the town “acted with malice, fraud, gross negligence, and/or oppressiveness” when it broke a “promise” made to firefighters on their hiring that they could use their Kelly days “as vacation days or on an as-needed basis as an additional incentive to the employment.”

* That the town committed “fraud and fraudulent inducement” when it “misrepresented material facts,” namely, that the 2019 agreement and department policy would remain the same as prior years with respect to the usage” of Kelly days.

* And that the town committed “constructive fraud” by “taking unconscionable advantage of (its) dominant position over” Local 4600.

Local 4600 is seeking compensatory damages, an equal amount of liquidated damages, and attorney’s fees.

Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson, for his part, told the Chesterton Tribune this morning that the town on its own, early last year, discovered the mistake in overtime payments, corrected it, and has compensated firefighters accordingly. Meanwhile, he said that the suit itself is meritless.

“Town of Chesterton has paid the firefighters in accordance with the law,” Parkinson said. “On its own initiative, the town conducted a payroll audit and voluntarily corrected the payroll error. The payments to the firefighters exceed the town’s legal obligation. In addition, the firefighters continue to enjoy benefits not received by any other Chesterton employees. Despite this, the firefighters have filed suit against the town because they don’t like the way they are required to follow department rules on scheduling their generous time off. This lawsuit has no legal merit and the town is confident that it will be exposed as a groundless attempt to intimidate the town.”


Posted 2/19/2019




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