CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After learning of a lawsuit filed by firefighters against the city of Morgantown over being improperly compensated for holidays, officials in Charleston have reached a $1.7 million settlement over a similar issue.
The agreement between the City of Charleston and Firefighters Local 317 will make up for lost holiday pay since 2012 for city firefighters.
Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin and Myron Boggess of Charleston Professional Firefighters Local 317 stood together on Monday morning inside City Hall to announce the settlement, which is subject to the approval of Charleston City Council.
“Our firefighters are out there every single day putting their lives on the line,” Goodwin told the media. “Their families watch them go out the door every single day. On Holiday, to not receive this pay for so many years, it was really important for us to get this done and we did it in about six months.”
According to the city, this stemmed from late 2011 when Charleston City Council approved changes to the way firefighters were compensated for holidays. The measure went into effect on January 1, 2012, and Charleston firefighters have been paid incorrectly for holidays since then, Boggess said.
The change directly contradicted state law, which said firefighters should not be paid less than time and a half of the hourly rate. Charleston Firefighters had been getting paid at a rate of 12 hours of straight time on holidays, Boggess said.
He told the media that the firefighters had been discussing this issue for years because even a slight drop in wages puts a strain on their families.
We had questioned whether we were being paid correctly,” Boggess said. “It started showing up all over the state and we started digging deeper into ours. We found out that we were not being compensated correctly.”
The settlement has been negotiated for around seven months, Goodwin said. She said that it had been brought up to the city following a MetroNews article on the holiday pay for Morgantown’s firefighters.
More than 160 firefighters, current and retired, will be paid in various increments with this lawsuit. Goodwin said the city will begin the $1.7 million in back-payment from a savings fund.
“We were fortunate to be quite honest that we had saved so much in our Unassigned Fund Balance this year, that we are able to take care of this for our firefighters without any expense to our taxpayers,” Goodwin said.
Charleston City Council will vote on the agreement and a bill will be introduced to codify the fix during the next City Council meeting on January 21, a release said.
Upon approval, payment will be made by the end of January, distributed according to the terms of the agreement. Barring any unforeseen issues, City Council will vote to correct City Code moving forward on February 3, a release said.
“We see this battle going on all over the state,” Boggess said. “There are already a couple of fire departments that have filed for litigation in this same matter. It makes us feel good that we have an administration willing to work with our local and our union to ratify these situations where our firefighters have been wronged in the past.”
Charleston City Attorney Kevin Baker worked on the deal. Teresa Toriseva, a Wheeling attorney, represented the Charleston’s firefighters union.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed by the International Firefighters Association Local 313 against the City of Morgantown is still pending.