Lawyers representing the City of Martinsburg, West Virginia recently announced that the city will appeal a state court decision over holiday compensation for the city’s firefighters. In a February 2020 decision, Judge Laura Faircloth found as a matter of law [i.e. absent a trial], that the city’s holiday pay plan for its firefighters violated the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. As a result, the city may be liable for ten years of back wages for both current and former firefighters.
It is common in any civil lawsuit for both sides to petition the court early in the legal proceedings seeking to have the case decided in each other favor absent a trail. This is especially common in wage and hour litigation since the underlying facts involved are very often not in dispute. In this case, the firefighters made several claims against the city. These claims included allegations of improper holiday pay calculations dating back decades and additional claims that the city changed several policies and procedures as a means of retaliation against firefighters after they filed suit. Click here, for more information on retaliation. The judge did not reach a decision on the retaliation claims; however, she was able to conclude the city was liable on the holiday pay issue.
Litigation involving holiday pay and firefighters is nothing new in West Virginia. In fact, the cities of Morgantown, Huntington, Charleston, and Parkersburg have also found themselves embroiled with firefighters over this very issue. The center of the controversies stem around a highly unique West Virginia statute that requires paid firefighters receive time and one half pay and/or time off in the future for all official state holidays. Here is the text from that statute found at West Virginia Code §8-15-10a.
§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.
Here is more on the story from The Journal.