The long running legal battle between the City of Morgantown, West Virginia and its firefighters over holiday pay does not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon. This past week city firefighters filed an amended complaint in state court claiming the city owes firefighters almost $6.5 million after years of improperly calculating their holiday pay. The firefighters had previously estimated back wages at around $5 million in the summer of 2019, when the lawsuit was initially filed. The firefighters’ claims center around a highly unique West Virginia statute that requires paid firefighters in that state either receive time and one half pay or paid time off for all official state holidays.
Litigation over firefighter holiday pay in West Virginia is not new. In recent years, several West Virginia cities have altered their holiday pay plans to meet state law. Most notably, Charleston, a city that employs twenty-five percent of West Virginia’s paid firefighters, resolved the firefighters’ claims without the expense of going to court. However, here in Morgantown, the firefighters’ attorneys claim the city is engaging in protracted litigation at the expense of both firefighters and taxpayers. More specifically, they claim the city is pursuing legal theories and making arguments that have already been argued and lost in other West Virginia cities. Additionally, the firefighters’ attorneys claim the city has refused to release payroll records as required during litigation such as this.
This case serves an important reminder of how state laws can also impact the way firefighters and other first responders must be paid. It often surprises people to learn that the FLSA does not require any overtime pay for working a holiday. However, many states have such a requirement. Here, the FLSA does not require West Virginia firefighters automatically receive overtime while working on a holiday, however this state law does.
Employers need to understand the impact of state laws in addition to the FLSA when paying firefighters and other first responders. Do you have questions about how the FLSA and state wage and hour laws impact firefighter overtime and hours worked? This is a area covered in-depth at all of our FLSA for Fire Departments live-webinars. The next class is only a few weeks away. Please consider joining us. Click here, for more information.
Here is more on the story from the West Virginia Record.