About 35 current and former City of Ruston, La., firefighters are resting a little easier after the Board of Aldermen finally approved the transfer of funds for a settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2001.
The Ruston Daily Leader reports the board on April 2 unanimously approved the transfer of $395,000 from the city’s general budget to the Ruston Fire Department’s budget to cover the settlement.
Mayor Dan Hollingsworth said he was glad to see a solution finally reached.
“We are pleased that this matter has been resolved on a mutually agreeable basis,” Hollingsworth said.
Retired District Chief Harvey Davis, who was one of the firefighters involved in the case, was also glad to see it come to an end.
“We have all looked forward to this day for a long time,” Davis said. “We didn’t want it to come to this back in 2001 when we filed the suit, but we felt it was something that had to be corrected. We are all very happy that this is now over.”
Bill Carter, the city’s attorney, said the dispute involved the interpretation of state laws relating to the pay of fire personnel.
State law requires that firefighters of certain ranks earn a specified percentage higher than a beginning firefighter. For example, a firefighter with the rank of captain must earn a minimum monthly salary at least 25 percent that of a rookie firefighter.
The dispute between the city and firefighters arose because of different perspectives on how differential pay between beginning and higher-ranking firefighters should be calculated.
Carter said in a news release that after efforts to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful, firefighters sued arguing that the increased pay granted to newly hired firefighters, but not to the higher-ranking employees, was inconsistent with state law requiring a set percentage difference between the pay of entry level firefighters and the higher ranks.
According to 2009 court documents, prior to the lawsuit being filed firefighters earned $4.35 an hour. However, if they obtained emergency medical technician status their pay was increased to the minimum wage at that time of $5.15 per hour. During the lawsuit, judges ruled that policies used by the city made it so that differential pay based on rank was almost eliminated because of the formula the city was using to calculate pay.
Carter said this settlement resolves the issues raised in the lawsuit.