West Virginia Firefighters Sue Over Holiday Pay

Firefighters in the City of Huntington, West Virginia have filed suit against the city claiming they were underpaid for holidays. All 83 of Huntington’s firefighters were listed as plaintiffs and the city was named as the sole defendant, in the suit filed today in Cabell County Circuit Court.

The suit is premised on state law claims under the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. It alleges that state law mandates that firefighters either be paid time and one-half for 24 hours or given 24 hours-off for each holiday whether they work the holiday or not. The city has not been complying with that requirement, according to the firefighters’ attorney, Teresa Toriseva.

Toriseva’s firm has filed similar suits on behalf of firefighters in Morgantown, Martinsburg and Weirton. A similar suit filed by Charleston firefighters resulted in a $1.7 million settlement earlier this year.

A copy of the Huntington complaint was not available, but the applicable law 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: 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.

More on the story (very comprehensive coverage).

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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