Judge rules against W.Va. FFs in holiday pay suit against city

The judge said he found the arguments on behalf of over 50 members of the Morgantown Fire Department "unpersuasive"


Erin Cleavenger
The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia Circuit Court Judge Phillip D. Gaujot on Wednesday granted judgment in favor of the City of Morgantown in a lawsuit filed by over 50 individual members of the Morgantown Fire Department regarding ongoing issues with holiday pay and additional time off.

The court previously entered a ruling in favor of the city during a hearing in September, to which attorney Teresa Toriseva, representing the firefighters, filed objections along with motions to alter or amend the judgment and to hold a live, in-person hearing rather than virtual as had been done previously.

At the December in-person hearing with the firefighters, Gaujot agreed to take their objections into consideration and reconsider his initial ruling in favor of the city.

The firefighters initially filed the complaint on June 7, 2019, in which they claimed the city negligently failed to pay firefighters the proper amount of holiday pay due—and by failing to properly and promptly pay the holiday pay, the city violated the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Morgantown grants time off for legal holidays rather than premium pay, which the court agrees it is entitled to do. The court found it has no obligation to pay premium pay.

After thorough consideration of both sides, Gaujot granted the City of Morgantown summary judgment while, in part, denying the firefighters' motion for summary judgment and denying their motion to alter or amend the court's judgment. Gaujot said the court found the firefighters' "arguments and enumerated objections to be unpersuasive."

While the ruling was not in their favor, it was not a total loss for the firefighters either.

Gaujot stated in the order that if the firefighters elect to have a special commissioner consider the evidence for each firefighter's entitled time off, "the parties shall jointly select a special commissioner to hear such evidence and notify the court of such selection within 30 days of the entry of this order."

The court also ordered that if any of the firefighters can "establish that he did not receive sufficient time off from Morgantown " for the period beginning two years prior to the complaint and ending with the date of this order, that firefighter "shall be entitled to receive additional time off from Morgantown in the amount due."

Upon receipt of the court's ruling, city administration officials said, "The City is pleased that Judge Gaujot has ruled correctly on the laws and facts of this case. We can now move toward a prompt resolution with our employees."

The Dominion Post reached out to Toriseva for comment from the firefighters, but had not heard back by press time.

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(c)2022 The Dominion Post 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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