The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that multiple cities across Kentucky owe firefighters million of dollars in unpaid overtime. The ruling has caused concern among mayors and county executives, many of whom are worried about how they will find the funds to pay overtime to firefighters according to revised state guidelines.
The ruling is the result of court battles between municipalities and the Labor Cabinet after the latter attempted to pursue unpaid wages following a 2007 decision by the Kentucky Court of Appeals which increased the wages cities owe to firefighters. The municipalities argued that the Labor Cabinet didn't have jurisdiction to pursue the wages and that the municipalities, as government agencies, were immune from suit.
Thursday's ruling essentially determined that municipal governments are on the hook for Kentucky's wage and hours laws, and may not avoid lawsuits by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet seeking to recover the money. As a result many municipalities owe a higher rate on unpaid overtime wages.
According to the Kentucky League of Cities Chief Operating Officer Temple Juett, if the cities are forced to pay back overtime and retirement benefits, the total bill could be between $25 million and $32 million.
Mayor Diane Whalen of Florence said that the city would have to pay $243,000. Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner has expressed concern that his city will be able to find the funds. Others have done the same.
As a result of the ruling, the state's Labor Cabinet may soon be going after the municipalities for the money. Dave Suetholz, General Counsel of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, said other cases pending across the state may soon be pursued as well.
Source: The Republic, "Ky. cities on hook for millions in unpaid overtime to firefighters after court ruling," Bret Barrouquere, August 29, 2011.