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Fire engineer alleges he was wrongfully terminated as retaliation

Jarrid Boyer filed a lawsuit alleging he was terminated after he confronted Fire Chief Steve Lieberman about not paying into state retirement benefits for employees. Boyer, a former Five Cities Fire Authority fire engineer, named the fire authority, Liberman and the city of Arroyo Grande in his suit.

The Five Cities Fire Authority provides firefighting services to the communities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano.

Even some part-time firefighters should receive CalPERS benefits

The fire authority is accused of not paying into the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). The New Times San Luis Obispo states the fire authority should have paid benefits for reserve firefighters that worked more than 1,000 hours annually. In 2012, Boyer began working the Five Cities Fire Authority as a reserve firefighter.

In 2016, Boyer suggested that to help with staffing shortages the fire authority should use the reserve firefighters more. Liberman told Boyer that would lead to reserve firefighters working over the 1,000-hour threshold, and they would have to pay CalPERS benefits. Boyer claims he then told Liberman that these part-time firefighters were already working over the 1,000-hour threshold.

Boyer discovers CalPERS benefits are not being paid

Boyer then became worried that these benefits were not being paid. He contacted CalPERS and discovered he, and other reserve firefighters, were not receiving CalPERS benefits. Boyers’ suit states he confronted Liberman about the benefit discrepancy, and the man told him his job did not include pursuing this issue. The fire chief allegedly became more hostile toward Boyer over time and told him never to bring up the CalPERS issue again.

Boyer contacted the Five Cities Firefighters Association about the issue. The association was concerned and reached out to CalPERS. After speaking to CalPERS, the association started an audit on the city of Arroyo Grande and the Five Cities Fire Authority.

Boyer is fired, despite positive evaluations

In 2017, Boyer passed his fire engineer exam and was hired as an engineer by the fire authority. He received two positive performance evaluations as an engineer. The lawsuit states that Liberman fired him in November 2017 for failing to complete his probation period satisfactorily.

California law protects employees against retaliation for reporting employer wrongdoing or refusing to participate in wrongdoing by the employer. Anyone who acts as whistleblower in California is protected from retaliation in the form of termination, demotion, negative performance evaluations, denied pay increases, harassment and having hours, salary or wages reduced.

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