An agenda item concerning a lawsuit filed by Houma firefighters against Terrebonne Parish over a pay dispute was pulled from the Civil Service Board’s agenda.
The firefighters filed the suit after their wages were cut by unexpected Social Security deductions.
New Orleans attorney Laura Rodrigue, who represents the Houma Firefighters Association, along with New Orleans lawyer Blake J. Arcuri, told the board Wednesday she decided to pull the item after being contacted by the defendants.
"We were asked to meet with the parish president today and we did prior to this meeting today," Rodrigue said. "We do believe we are going to reach a resolution in this matter to resolve it. So we are requesting that this matter be continued."
The defendants did not attend the meeting.
The complaint, which was filed July 3 in the 32nd Judicial District Court, alleges the parish hired the firefighters for an agreed-upon wage and certain benefits such as retirement.
Firefighters were hired with the condition that they contribute to the Firefighters’ Retirement System, which would be their only retirement system, according to the lawsuit.
However, on June 7, 2018, the parish told the Fire Department that Social Security taxes would start being withheld from its paychecks beginning on July 1, 2018. The cut in pay did not result from any change of law, the lawsuit argues.
Attorneys representing the Houma Firefighters Association said firefighters are suffering a major pay cut due to negligence.
The Social Security deduction has resulted in a 6.2-percent pay cut for firefighters, some of whom make only $9.44 per hour, the plaintiffs claim.
The plaintiffs accused the parish of negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The department is asking for wages that were "wrongfully deprived between July 5, 2018, to present," back pay, adjustments to present and future wages, pension contributions and Social Security contributions, court costs and damages.
Although the suit was filed in the local court, the defendants requested the matter be settled in federal court, according to Aug. 15 court filings. The plaintiffs opposed the request and asked the case be kept in the local court’s jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs had asked the Civil Service Board to hear the issue and make a factual determination on the matter. Rodrigue said she’s now hopeful the case could be resolved soon.
"We may be able to reach a resolution within three to four weeks," she said. "Negotiations are underway and we hope to reach a resolution in favor of the firefighters."
--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.