Last minute amended filing ups holiday back pay by Morgantown firefighters against the city more than $1 million

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – International Association of Firefighters Local 313 members in Morgantown have filed an amended complaint seeking more than an additional $1 million in damages associated with the ongoing holiday pay dispute with the city.

The original lawsuit filed by 57 firefighters asked the court to award back pay from June 7, 2014 to June 7, 2019.

The Morgantown defense, led by Kay Casto & Chaney attorney Ryan Simonton, and Toriseva have attempted to resolve the original issue with four failed mediation attempts with three different professional mediators and two-and-a-half years of litigation at the expense of taxpayers.

The amended lawsuit, filed September 14 by Teresa Toriseva representing firefighters, covers an additional claim from the date of the original complaint, June of 2019 to February of 2020 when Morgantown city council passed an ordinance correcting the holiday pay calculation. The amended complaint also adds seven firefighters hired in June of 2019 that were on duty until the discrepancy was corrected in February of 2020.

The firefighters document the claim with calculations from expert witness Roger Griffith, a certified public accountant with Charleston-based Gray Griffith & Mays. The original claim against the city filed was for $5.25 million in back pay. When the eight-month period between the filing date and correction date is added, the claim jumps $1.21 million to $6.46 million.

The filing comes a day after the city filed a request for a summary judgement and days ahead of the scheduled circuit court hearing September 16.

In the summary judgement, Kay Casto & Chaney attorney representing the city Ryan Simonton asks the court to affirm the city Morgantown has the legal authority to grant leave instead of additional pay, determine firefighters are due equal time off for actual time they would have worked and reduce statute of limitations from five years to years.

Attorneys representing firefighters said the city would not provide individual payroll records, so the calculations were based on payroll summaries provided by the defendant. The summaries do not provide the level of detail needed to accurately determine which firefighters may have in overtime status. The amended claim is based on the assumption that one-third of holidays occurred while the individual firefighter was eligible for overtime pay.

The lawsuit says the city violated state code for decades when they compensated firefighters for only 12 hours of time off for each holiday shift when they actually work 24-hour shifts. State law requires firefighters to be paid time-and-a-half, or be given equivalent time if the holiday falls on a work shift.

In a previous press release, Toriseva said,” Litigating against firefighters to prevent them from being paid what they are owed fails the public interest. All the firefighters can do now is return to Court on September 16, 2021 and continue to fight for their back pay.”