MORGANTOWN, W. Va. An effort to standardize holiday pay for firefighters statewide passed out of the House Committee on Government Organization and remains alive with less than one week to go in the 60-day legislative session.

Senate Bill 557 is sponsored by Mike Oliverio, R. Monongalia, 13, because he said many municipalities across the state use different methods, and this is a way to add clarity and consistency. The bill partially reads, “a member of a paid fire department shall be paid at a rate not less than one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay, equal to his or her shift, even if the shift spans two calendar days.”

“This legislation was an opportunity to standardize that, try to reduce the litigation that has continued, and also create real fairness for our firefighters,” Oliverio said.

In Morgantown, firefighters have been locked in a legal battle with the city over holiday compensation since June of 2019. Firefighters have claimed the city holiday pay policy compensates them for 16 hours instead of the 24-hour structure explicitly stated in the Wage and Payment Collection Act.

“Fortunately, legislators throughout the state have evaluated this and have come to the same conclusion that a standardized holiday pay system makes sense,” Oliverio said.

Oliverio said much is asked of firefighters in the course of their service to the community. Forcing them to pursue legal action for proper payment is disrespectful to them and further complicates efforts to hire new firefighters.

“Litigation, lawsuits, and legal costs didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Oliverio said. “I think if we can work out a compromise with the state law to address this forevermore, we would be better off.”

The cities of Martinsburg, Huntington, and Charleston have reached settlements with their firefighters in recent years over holiday compensation.