Judge Rules WV City Miscalculated Firefighters’ Compensation

A West Virginia court has ruled that the City of Parkersburg violated the state’s Wage Payment Collection Act in the way it calculated the pay of firefighters. The suit was filed by Chief Fire Inspector Wayne White, who claimed he was being retaliated against and obstructed in carrying out his duties.

White’s problems reportedly began after he filed a civil service grievance in 2015 over the appointment of another member to the Chief Fire Inspector position. He prevailed on the grievance, came out first on the civil service list, and was appointed to the position in 2017. However, White claims upon being promoted he was denied training and overtime opportunities. According to the West Virginia Record, White alleged that the city:

  • “constantly manipulated, interfered with, and sought to change” his pay, and…  
  • he has received “pushback, interference, and disregard relating to code violations discovered” while inspecting buildings in the city.

The suit was joined by several other firefighters and IAFF Local 91. White was also a defendant in inspection-related litigation in 2021 over a 2020 incident we covered here.

Judge Robert A. Waters concluded the city improperly altered firefighters’ compensation in 2017, and according to the Parkersburg News & Sentinal ordered the city to:

  • Restore the reduction to hourly pay rates at the next regular pay period.
  • Calculate within 15 days the backpay, with legal interest, owed.
  • Correct the retirement pay rate of the affected firefighters.

The decision has the potential to complicate pension calculations for several of the affected firefighters who retired since 2017. According to the firefighters’ attorney, Walt Auvil, their pensions will have to be recalculated.

There are conflicting reports about when the suit was filed. According to the Parkersburg News & Sentinal, it was filed in 2018. According to WTAP it was filed in 2021. The Wood County Circuit Court does not allow online access to court records. It is possible there are actually two suits, one from 2018 and the other from 2021. Here is a link to news video coverage that could not be embedded.

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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