PARKERSBURG – Members of the Parkersburg Fire Department have filed a lawsuit claiming the city hasn’t paid them properly for time worked on holidays.
Wayne White, a lieutenant with the fire department and president of the local firefighters’ union, filed the lawsuit Jan. 21 in Wood Circuit Court. In addition to White, 55 others firefighters are listed in the complaint – with ranks from captain to firefighter – as saying they might seek similar relief.
“The West Virginia Legislature has set a holiday pay enhancement for firefighters statewide. Police, too,” Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva, who is representing the firefighters, told The West Virginia Record. “But there is a big problem in the way the holiday pay is being calculated for firefighters in numerous cities across West Virginia.
“The miscalculation of pay by municipalities, including Parkersburg, is causing firefighters to be paid less than what is actually owed, year after year, for each firefighter. This lawsuit seeks lost wages and asks the court to stop the ongoing problem.”
According to the complaint, state code says any member of a paid fire department required to work a legal holiday, he shall be allowed equal time off as approved by the chief of the department or shall be paid at a rate not less than one and a half times his regular pay.
The complaint also cites a case where there was no written contract between Bluefield and its firefighters in which the court said “holiday pay statues are designed to provide enhanced benefits to those employees who are required to work on a holiday when most employees are off.”
The complaint says that even though the firefighters may have been paid additional pay for each holiday whether they worked or not, such pay was “in addition to their regular pay.”
“Such ‘regular pay’ for holidays for firefighters under state law is to be ‘at a rate not less than one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay,’ but plaintiff was not so paid by the City of Parkersburg in direct violation of the statute,” the complaint states. “Additionally, because plaintiff firefighter works a 54-hour work week, there is an established ‘regular rate of pay.’
“Parkersburg firefighters should be compensated holiday compensation time at a rate of one and one-half times their normal pay for a holiday whether on duty or not and such compensation should factor in that firefighters work a 24-hour shift.”
The plaintiffs allege they are owed wages for numerous holidays over a period of many years.
The plaintiffs accuse the city of negligent failure to properly pay statutory holiday premium and of failing to follow the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. They ask for the appointment of a special commissioner to calculate individual damages for each of the plaintiffs.
The firefighters seek compensatory damages as well as interest, attorney fees and court costs.
The firefighters are being represented by Toriseva and Jake Polverini of Toriseva Law.
Toriseva’s firm has represented firefighters in similar cases across the state, having filed similar lawsuits in Morgantown, Martinsburg and Weirton, which settled with the firefighters. Last week, Charleston and its firefighters reached a $1.7 million agreement. Toriseva represented the Charleston firefighters as well.
Wood Circuit Court case number 20-C-10