West Virginia Firefighters Sue for Holiday Pay

Thirty-seven current and former Martinsburg firefighters have filed suit claiming the city failed to pay them holiday pay in accordance with state law.

The suit was filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court by IAFF Local 805 President Mark Stroop on behalf of three captains, six lieutenants, 26 firefighters and two retirees. At the heart of the case is the following statutory provision:

West Virginia Code §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.

According to the West Virginia Record, the firefighters claim they are owed time and one-half for “numerous holidays… some over a period of many years.” They are also asking the court to appoint a special commissioner “to calculate the holiday pay wages due each of the firefighters from their date of hire … to assess the costs” against the city. They also want the commissioner to “calculate the additional benefits due each firefighter.”

The Herald Mail Media reported that City Attorney Kin Sayre said in an email: “The city works with the City of Martinsburg Firefighters Civil Service Commission to ensure that it complies with all regulations concerning its paid fire department. …The city currently pays firefighters for holidays worked in compliance with the state code, as well as compensates firefighters whose regular scheduled day off falls on the holiday.”

Here is more on the story. If we can obtain a copy of the complaint it will be posted here.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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