Morgantown Firefighters Sue Over Holiday Pay

Another West Virginia firefighters’ union has filed suit claiming they have been shortchanged  on holiday pay. Fifty-eight members of Morgantown Firefighters IAFF Local 313 filed suit last week in Monongalia County Circuit Court, claiming the city has not been paying them for holiday pay in accordance with state law.

The law in question, West Virginia Code §8-15-10a reads as follows:

  • §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…

A strict reading of the law would appear to require firefighters to be paid time and one-half for all holidays whether working or on their days-off. The law is identical in wording with a statute that provides the same benefit for police officers. One obvious distinction between firefighters and police officers is the duration of their work shift.

According to the complaint, the firefighters acknowledge receiving extra holiday pay, but they claim they did not receive time and one-half in accordance with the law. They also claim the law requires firefighters who work overtime on a holiday to be paid double-time.

The Morgantown suit is similar to one filed last year by Martinsburg Firefighters. Both are premised on a 1986 West Virginia Supreme Court decision, Pullano v. City of Bluefield, 176 W. Va. 198, 342 S.E.2d 164 (WV, 1986). In Pullano, the Supreme Court concluded that personnel working overtime on a holiday were entitled to double-time. Here is the court’s reasoning:

  • If a firefighter works overtime on a legal holiday, then he is entitled to the premium compensation provided under the holiday pay statute and our wage and hour law.
  • The premium payment of fifty percent of the regular rate of pay for overtime is independent of any enhanced benefit arising from the extra pay under W. Va. Code, 8-15-10a.
  • The premium payment for holiday pay is also fifty percent of the regular rate of pay.
  • When the two enhanced benefits are added together, they are one hundred percent of the regular rate of pay which when added to the regular rate doubles it.
  • Therefore, we conclude where a firefighter works overtime under W. Va. Code, 21-5C-3(a), and such overtime work is performed on a legal holiday under W. Va. Code, 8-15-10a, he is entitled to two times his regular rate of pay for the overtime hours worked.

Here is a copy of Pullano:

Here is a copy of the complaint:

More on the story.

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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