WV City, Firefighters Headed to Court over Holiday Pay

MORGANTOWN, WV—After failed attempts at mediation, it appears as if a lawsuit filed against the city of Morgantown by Morgantown Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 313 is heading to court.

The suit, filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court in June 2019, lists all 58 union members as plaintiffs and claims the city has never properly compensated its firefighters in terms of holiday pay.

According to the suit, state code spells out compensation for holidays. If a firefighter works on a legal holiday, or if the holiday falls on the firefighter’s day off, the firefighter is entitled to equivalent time off on another day or pay at time-and-a-half.

The lawsuit points out that firefighters have been compensated with 12 hours of time off per holiday shift even though they work 24-hour shifts.

Morgantown Communications Director Andrew Stacy said the city was hopeful that mediation efforts would be successful.

“During the litigation, the city has granted the firefighters all the holiday leave they claim they might receive under state law. It has also made settlement offers that would provide the firefighters with funds that are likely to cover any amount they could have received for holidays if they had previously been paid as the firefighters requested, rather than being granted the holiday leave the city has historically allowed, ” Stacy explained, referencing similar suits filed across West Virginia.

“We believe those settlement efforts equal or exceed the terms agreed upon with other firefighters in the state. Unfortunately, these efforts have not been sufficient to resolve the lawsuit at this point.”

Jayson Nicewarner, president of Morgantown Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 313, is listed as the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit.

“This is a lawsuit to recover actual holiday wages never properly paid to all Morgantown firefighters. It is limited to five years back wages by law, even though the city has been doing it wrong for decades. The city only fixed the ongoing problem after we sued,” he said.

Nicewarner explained that the firefighters have already agreed to substantially reduce the damages they can claim and prove in court—wages, interest, attorney fees and costs.

“The number we believe a judge will award if we go to court is much bigger,” he said. Nicewarner said he could not disclose how much the suit is seeking.

“While we are sympathetic that this city council did not cause this problem, it is their problem to fix,” he said. “The number is big because Morgantown firefighter pay was wrong for the entire department for a very long time.”

From Firehouse.com

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