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Frey v. Spokane County Fire District No. 8

September 11, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert H. Whaley Chief United States District Judge


Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Ct. Rec. 10). A hearing was held on the motion on August 29, 2006. Plaintiff was represented by Mary Giannini and R. Max Etter, Jr. Defendant was represented by Stephanie Alexander.


Plaintiff Garry Frey was employed with the Spokane County Fire District (SCFD) No. 8 from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned. During his tenure at the SCFD No. 8, he worked as a EMS Officer, as a Deputy Chief, and also held the title of Assistant Chief for a six-month period in 2001/02. When Plaintiff was first employed as a Deputy Chief, he understood that his job was exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which meant that he would not qualify for overtime pay. Plaintiff asserts that as the years passed in which he was Deputy Chief, he was assigned more duties, and much of the work he did was considered nonexempt under the FLSA.

Spokane County Fire District No. 8 consists of four (4) stations. The administrative hierarchy of SCFD No. 8 is set forth on Page 113 of Ct. Rec. 10. There is one Chief that reports to the Board of Commissioners. Three Deputy Chiefs report to the Chief. Each Deputy Chief is responsible for various divisions or units. The chain of command under the Deputy Chiefs is Captains, then Lieutenants, and finally Firefighters (Def. St. of Mat. Facts 11).

The SCFD is staffed by career firefighters, as well as volunteer firefighters. The firefighters are specifically assigned to fight fires, and to clean and perform routine maintenance on equipment, vehicles, the station grounds and the facilities. In 2001, SCFD No. 8 had approximately 15 full-time career firefighters, 10 part-time firefighters, 16 resident firefighters, and 44 volunteer firefighters. In 2002, SCFD No. 8 had approximately 13 full-time career firefighters, 12 part-time firefighters, 15 resident firefighters, and 43 volunteer firefighters. In 2003, SCFD No. 8 had approximately 15 full-time career firefighters, 15 part-time firefighters, 11 resident firefighters and 42 volunteer firefighters. During these years, SCFD No. 8 employed at least one full-time administrative assistant employee, at least one part-time file clerk, who assisted the deputy chiefs with filing projects, and clerical staff who were assigned duties such as answering the telephones for the District, distributing mail, data entry for accounts payable, and filing.

The following are a list of management duties that Plaintiff, as Deputy Chief, was responsible for during the years 2001-2003. These are set forth in Defendant's Statement of Facts and are not opposed by Plaintiff:

(1) Responsible for managing and supervising career firefighters and officers and maintenance specialists, and at some point, for managing the part-time firefighters (Def. Statement of Material Facts (DSMF) 8, 9, 10);

(2) Responsible for managing several divisions of SCFD No. 8, including risk management, EMS training, and maintenance of facilities and apparatus; (DSMF 13);

(3) Responsible for personnel management duties, which included interviewing, hiring, supervising assigned staff, assigning duties to career personnel, approving leave requests, addressing personnel issues, and overseeing the employee promotional and exiting processes under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (DSMF 14);

(5) Ensure that sufficient personnel was available to meet District's mission and research and recommended employee policies (DSMF 14);

(6) Review schedule to ensure that schedules prepared by Lieutenants properly covered all necessary shifts (DSMF 15);

(7) Organize Wellness Program, which included choosing and purchasing exercise equipment for firefighters, and setting up the location for the exercise program (DSMF 17);

(8) Manage the District's EMS program, which included ensuring training and procedures were followed (DSMF 18);

(9) Manage Ongoing Training Evaluation Program, which included making sure firefighters were in compliance with the training requirements of the Department of Health (DSMF 19);

(10) Responsible for risk management and acted as District Safety Officer. Risk management included: investigating all District accidents involving equipment or personnel, and addressing and making recommendations in relation to workers compensation and L & I claims, documenting and maintaining accurate records, and looking out for the welfare of the district personnel (DSMF 20, 21);

(11) Oversee entire collective bargaining process; was a member of the negotiating team for negotiating firefighters pay; responsible for responding to employee grievances and ensuring compliance with CBA (DSMF 22);

(12) Responsible for managing the budget for department/division and assisting in planning and implementing and developing the budget for the District's policies and procedures (DSMF 23);

(13) Code incoming invoices, which included approval of order and amount to be paid; directing payment of invoice out of particular budget number (DSMF 24);

(14) Coordinate and supervise proper maintenance of all District's apparatus and facilities; supervise maintenance staff and develop training program; maintain records for apparatus and equipment; test apparatus and equipment; and make adjustments to dispatch system settings with Chief's approval (DSMF 25, 26);

(15) Order and maintain supplies for the stations (DSMF 27); and

(16) Review and recommend changes to Standard Operating Procedure manual (DSMF 28);

While Deputy Chief, Plaintiff also had responsibilities as an 820 call duty officer. Plaintiff acted as the 820 call duty officer about 9 times a month-except when other staff were on vacation, it could be higher than that. The 820 call duty officer wore a digital pager that notified the on-call duty that there was an incoming call to the station. The 820 call duty officer would utilize the pager, cell phone, and radio while responding to or monitoring calls.

According to Plaintiff, the 820 call duty officer was the officer of the day representing the Chief in any manner. Specifically, the 820 call duty officer would respond to calls, based on the Standard Operating Procedure criteria. If the call was a large scale call, then the 820 call duty officer would respond. This included going to the scene and assisting the incident commander as needed. Assistance could mean being in charge of a division that was responding to the fire, although this occurred only occasionally. Plaintiff estimated that he fought fires less than 5 times a year when acting as the 820 call duty officer.

If the call was an aid call, the officer would monitor the call. Monitoring included listening to the radio, and determining if anything needed to be done. While on-call, the 820 call duty officer did not have to stay at the station if they lived close enough to the SCFD boundary. Plaintiff stated that although there was not a specific response time, the unwritten rule was that the on-call officer had to be able to respond within 5-10 minutes. The only restriction placed on the on-call duty officer, other than response time, was that they were not allowed to drink alcohol or attend movies while on-call.

Plaintiff also asserts that he performed the following nonexempt tasks while employed as Deputy Chief:*fn1

(1) Document and maintain various District records;

(2) Assist in budgeting, including gathering budget information and putting in it budgeting format;

(3) Respond to emails and phone calls from staff, constituents, vendors, regulatory agencies;

(4) Review and process invoices, including coding invoices with bar codes;

(5) Maintain, fill out, and file records for equipment testing;

(6) Check off and file supplies;

(7) Monitor shop equipment and tools;

(8) Meet with vendors, staff, resident firefighters, and volunteer firefighters as needed;

(9) Input equipment and apparatus information cards regarding ...

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