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Supreme Court rules in favor of Martinsburg firefighters over holiday pay, may set stage for Morgantown ruling

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals granted firefighters from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 805′s motion to dismiss an appeal filed by their city on Friday.

The dismissed appeal challenged Judge Laura Faircloth’s ruling in Martinsburg that holiday pay be based on professional firefighters’ actual work shift of 24 hours. 

Members of International Association of Firefighters Local 313 sued Morgantown in 2019 over unpaid holiday pay as well. Rather than be compensated for a 24-hour shift, firefighters were being compensated for 12 hours.  Morgantown corrected the issue prior to Faircloth’s ruling, but the legal battle over back pay owed to employees has continued. 

In the June hearing, Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Gaujot said he was unsure how he would rule and planned to wait for this West Virginia Supreme Court ruling.

“The Morgantown Professional Firefighters of Local 313 are pleased the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of their brother firefighters in Martinsburg,” said Teresa Toriseva, Local 313’s attorney. “Judge Faircloth in Martinsburg verified what the firefighters across the state have been indicating is the proper application of the Holiday Pay Statute.”

The city offered a $1.7 million settlement in April, but the firefighters rejected this offer as they sought $1.95 million. The Monongalia County Circuit Court Judges advised Morgantown and IAFF Local 313 to attempt mediation again during a June 2021 pre-trial hearing, which was unsuccessful and the city chose not increase its settlement offer. Four mediations have been conducted throughout the case, three of which the city has offered to increase its settlement.

“Morgantown clearly agrees as it began applying the statute correctly in February of 2020, shortly after the Morgantown firefighters filed their suit, but even before Judge Faircloth ruled as she did in Martinsburg,” Toriseva said. “Hopefully now, the firefighters in Morgantown will be able to collect their lost back pay.”

The second pre-trial is set for Sept. 16, 2021.

The City of Morgantown had no further comments.

This article originally stated none of the mediations resulted in the city increasing its offer to settle. This has been corrected, as the city offered to increase its settlement during the first three mediations, but not during the final one.

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