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The president of the Menlo Park Firefighters' Association said Friday the organization tried to avoid suing for overtime pay, but felt it had no choice after negotiations stalled.

The federal labor lawsuit filed Thursday against the Menlo Park Fire Protection District alleges the agency has refused to compensate firefighters for the time they spend before their shifts driving to one station to pick up equipment and then driving to a second station where they are assigned to work. The firefighters say they should be paid one and one-half their regular rate of pay for the effort.

The suit also charges that the district has refused "to include annual leave payout in the calculation of the regular rate" of pay, so as to be factored into overtime calculations.

Eighty-two district firefighters are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks relief under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Menlo Park Firefighters' Association President John Wurdinger said Friday that the organization and an affiliate union — the International Association of Firefighters, San Mateo County Local 2400 — tried to resolve the matter out of a courtroom.

Fire district Chief Harold Schapelhouman told The Daily News on Thursday that he was "somewhat perplexed" by the suit and wished that the organization had attempted to resolve the issue without pursuing litigation.

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