Morgantown firefighters prepare to appeal holiday backpay order

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Gaujot ruled in favor of Morgantown in the battle between the city and firefighters for holiday backpay. Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 313 and attorney Teresa Toriseva plan to appeal the ruling.

In lawsuit filed in June of 2019, the plaintiffs asserted firefighters were improperly paid for holidays. The suit said firefighters were were only paid 12-hours for for each holiday shift when they actually work 24-hours.

The city acknowledged the incorrect holiday pay calculations and corrected the situation moving forward with an ordinance in February of 2020.

“The IAFF does not agree with the order, but we respect the process and the judge,” Toriseva said.

During more than two years of litigation there have been four failed mediation attempts and numerous court dates, all funded by taxpayers. Over that period the side were close, but Toriseva said the city was not willing to move at all during the negotiations with firefighters.

“We remained then willing to move- there was no movement from the city as a matter of fact,” Toriseva said.

Firefighters and Toriseva contend the city violated state law until the ordinance was passed in February of 2020. Further, the judge ruled firefighters are not eligible backpay, but Paid Time Off- another difference the plaintiffs have with Judge Gaujot’s ruling.

“We have to pursue it until either victory in court or you’re at the highest court,” Toriseva said,” Both sides have to look at it that way.”

The court ruling is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks while the appeal is finalized. According to Toriseva, firefighters are members of the community that run to the chaos to render aid in emergency situations and that will not change.

“There is a sense of realism I think among the membership and an absolute sense of duty and they’re on the job,” Toriseva said,” They’re back on dity today brushing it off.”