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Morgantown firefighters plan legal challenge over compensation questions

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Members of a Morgantown firefighters union rejected a proposal in January regarding holiday compensation. Now, the International Association of Firefighters Local 313 chapter is claiming a cut to differential pay to all city employees is connected to the refusal.

The firefighter’s union is planning to challenge the action. The move follows the union’s vote of “no confidence” in Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws.

“A city manager decision was made that canceled a shift differential that every city employee is entitled to — not just firefighters — and has been in writing and is part of the agreement with the city and has been for at least 35 years,” attorney Teresa Toriseva told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM.

Firefighters filed a lawsuit in July 2019 related to incorrect holiday pay calculations; the legal challenge alleged the city failed to pay firefighters for 24 hours’ worth of work. The city offered a $1.7 million settlement.

“Reports are that the city is upset with the firefighters for not taking the settlement, which is a substantial reduction of what they’re owed,” Toriseva said.

“The fire department would have settled for just under $2 million. The fire department wants to resolve it. That’s about half the damages they’re entitled to for a five-year period, and they’ve been doing it wrong for almost 40.”

Toriseva promised additional legal action is coming regarding personnel.

“It makes no sense why it isn’t resolved for the benefit of the citizens and the fire department,” she added. “Instead, what we get after a failed mediation to resolve it is we get the entire departments’ pay slashed by $2,000 per firefighter.”

City officials said the action was not retaliation.

“For clarification, the City Personnel Rules provide a shift differential for employees who work the afternoon shift and the night shift,” they said in a statement. “With a new city manager starting in December, and through work with a consultant on a Classification and Compensation Study and updates to City Personnel Rules, city administration identified inconsistencies in how some employees were claiming shift differential. All department directors were notified to check those practices and make sure shift differential was being paid equally to all our employees as laid out in the personnel rules.”

Toriseva also represents the Monongalia-Preston Fraternal Order of Police, which informed Morgantown officials earlier this year it plans to pursue legal action over creating a Citizens Police Review Board.

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