Lubbock firefighters face off against the city in a lawsuit that could cost taxpayers a half-million dollars. The firefighters say the city owes them thousands of hours in back-pay, and the Lubbock judge presiding over the case agrees. But, the City of Lubbock is not giving up the fight just yet.
Last year, dozens of fire-fighters sued the City of Lubbock. They claim the city did not pay fire-fighters for seniority pay on certain days. On Wednesday, District Judge Sam Medina ruled in favor of the fire fighters. If the ruling stands, their victory could cost the City of Lubbock at least $500,000 in back-pay.
At least 170 fire-fighters signed onto the lawsuit against the City of Lubbock in spring of 2001, and this week, the fire-fighters got the answer they were waiting for. "We feel good that Judge Medina ruled in our favor, we felt he would," said Lt. Steve Holland with the Lubbock Fire Dept.
Holland is one of the fire-fighters who said he wasn't paid what he was entitled to on days when he filled in for other fire-fighters, at a higher rank. "Our contention is when the fire fighters are moving up, they're not getting paid for seniority," said Holland.
Holland estimates the city owes him and other fire-fighters at least $500,000 plus interest in back-pay for five years. But, City Attorney Anita Burgess says the city doesn't owe them one penny of back pay. "We have paid that correctly according to the law," said Burgess.
The problem is both sides disagree about how to interprete the law. In the law suit, the city said it paid fire-fighters 'longevity pay' in other words, it's extra money for their years of service. But, fire-fighters say the city owes them seniority pay too for days when fire-fighters filled in for others, and in a ruling on Wednesday, District Judge Sam Medina sided with the fire-fighters. "We hope we could work out something with the city, so we don't have to go through appeals process," said Holland.
The City of Lubbock hopes to reverse the ruling when it takes the case to the Court of Appeals in Amarillo. By the way, not all fire fighters signed on to this lawsuit.