Judge sides with firefighters in the latest dispute over firefighter holiday pay in West Virginia

In the latest round of litigation involving West Virginia firefighters and their entitlement to holiday pay, the City of Parkersburg has been found in violation of West Virginia state law by failing to adequately compensate city firefighters for recognized holidays. The decision, which was issued by Wood Circuit Judge J.D. Beane on December 12, requires the city to start paying firefighters 36 hours of pay or provide firefighters with 24 hours of paid leave for all legal holidays. In addition to requiring the city modify firefighter holiday pay moving forward, the judge also awarded firefighters backpay for past holidays and additional backpay, equal to double the firefighters’ regular rate of pay, for firefighters that worked overtime on holidays.

Judge Beane’s ruling stems from a 2020 lawsuit filed by fifty-six city firefighters that alleged the city failed to pay firefighters the “statutory holiday premium” for many years. The total amount of damages is still unknown and will likely require more testimony in the new year. Also, the city has already unsuccessfully petitioned the court to stay this ruling pending a possible appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court. Click here, for more information on that decision.

For those that are not familiar with this unique provision of West Virginia state law related to firefighters and holiday pay here is the text:

§8-15-10a. Firemen who are required to work during holidays; how compensated.

§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.

Parkersburg is not the only community wrestling with how to properly compensate firefighters for recognized legal holidays. In fact, the cities of Huntington, Morgantown, and Martinsburg have all been involved in litigation in recent years over this precise issue. Additionally, the City of Charleston reached a $1.7 million settlement with firefighters absent litigation in January 2020. For more on the Parkersburg decision, click here.

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