The City of Charleston, West Virginia has reached a $1.7 million settlement with more than 160 current and former firefighters over the way the city pays them for holidays. This settlement follows claims made by firefighters last year that the city’s holiday pay plan violated West Virginia law. This settlement is unique in two ways:
First, the Charleston firefighter’s claims hinged on a very unique provision of West Virginia law and not the FLSA. West Virginia law requires firefighters that are required to work holidays receive time and one-half pay. Here is a portion of that highly unique statute:
§8-15-10a. Firemen who are required to work during holidays; how compensated.
From the effective date of this section, if any member of a paid fire department is required to work during a legal holiday as is specified in subsection (a), section one, article two, chapter two of this code, or if a legal holiday falls on the member’s regular scheduled day off, he or she shall be allowed equal time off at such time as may be approved by the chief executive officer of the department under whom he or she serves or, in the alternative, shall be paid at a rate not less than one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay: Provided, That if a special election of a political subdivision other than a municipality falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the municipality may choose not to recognize the day of the election as a holiday if a majority of the municipality’s city council votes not to recognize the day of the election as a holiday.
The City of Charleston is not the only West Virginia city impacted by this statute. In fact, there have been several recent instances where West Virginia firefighters have claimed that their respective fire departments were making similar errors related to holiday pay. See, West Virginia Firefighters Allege City Failed to Pay Overtime Correctly, from FirefighterOvertime.org, and West Virginia Firefighters Sue for Holiday Pay, from Curt Varone’s Fire Law Blog. These recent lawsuits involving West Virginia firefighters lead us to the second reason why this settlement is unique.
This settlement was reached absent litigation. City officials and leaders of the firefighters’ union reached an agreement following several months of negotiations without the need to engage in costly litigation. While both sides were represented by attorneys, the parties were able to work cooperatively in reaching a settlement. This likely saved the city money and allowed the firefighters to receive their back pay much quicker. Kudos to both the city and firefighters.
Here is more on the story from MetroNews.