Louisville Ky Fire Dept Lawsuit
Hey any Louisville FF on here can devulge the next steps? I guess my big question is does this start from 2008 and back 5 yrs or is it from the verdict in the original case (2000-2001?) back 5 yrs
Louisville firefighters and department retirees stand to get millions of dollars in back pay after the Kentucky Supreme Court denied a city request to overturn a lower court's ruling that overtime was miscalculated for five years.
Firefighters had filed a complaint about the overtime issue with the state Labor Cabinet in 2000.
Because firefighters work shifts of 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off, they average 56 hours a week. The firefighters contended the city needed to pay overtime after 40 hours in a week and to include income for training, longevity and bonuses in their base pay.
The Labor Cabinet ruled in favor of the firefighters in 2002. The firefighters also won in Jefferson Circuit Court in 2004 and later at the appellate court level before the city appealed to the state's high court.
It will likely still be several months before firefighters see any back pay, city officials and an attorney for the firefighters say.
Exactly how much money will be paid still must be determined, but it will be millions, said Chad Carlton, a spokesman for metro Mayor Jerry Abramson. In addition, the administration doesn't know where the money will come from in the city budget.
"It certainly will be a hit to metro government," Carlton said.
How much the city has spent on this case and the possible legal fees for firefighters' attorneys were not available yesterday.
Now that the appeals court ruling has been upheld, Carlton said the state labor cabinet will have to calculate what amount should have been paid to firefighters based on the formula approved by the court.
Once that's determined, Carlton said the city will sit down with the firefighters to figure out the best way to pay them their money.
Craig Willman, president of the union that represents Louisville Fire & Rescue employees, said he's pleased with the court's ruling but expects it will be a long while before any money changes hands.
Willman said his union is willing to work with the city to reach an agreement that will pay the money as quickly as possible without putting too much financial strain on the city.
Doug Steele, the Washington D.C.-based attorney representing the firefighters, said he hopes the parties can come to an agreement on the amount owed and how it will be paid.
"This provides an opportunity for the parties to sit down and work in earnest to reach a settlement," Steele said.
Carlton said the city will work to get firefighters the five years of back overtime pay as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, city officials continue to battle a separate case with the firefighters that deals with the same issue -- how overtime was calculated. In that case, the firefighters allege that their contract was violated, which means they could seek 15 years of back pay.
An adverse decision by the courts could put the city on the hook for an additional 10 years of back pay.
Steele said he believes the favorable decision on the labor complaint by the state Supreme Court will add traction to their argument in the second case. He said he also hopes that the latest ruling could prompt the city to try to reach a settlement on the pending case, though Carlton indicated that was not possible.
Carlton said the city will continue to challenge the contract dispute, which is pending before the appeals court. If that ruling were found in the firefighters favor, it would mean substantially more money from the city.
At one point, the city estimated it would cost about $60 million if both the labor and contract cases were lost.
Carlton said no plan has been made on how to factor the money into the budget or whether it could be phased in over several budget cycles. Steele said more than 600 past and current firefighters are affected by the back pay in the labor complaint.
Steele and Carlton said since this complaint, changes have been made to the current contract that adjust the overtime calculations.
Reporter Jessie Halladay can be reached at (502) 582-4081.