Conway’s police, fire employees win ruling
The lawsuit sought to represent all city employees but later narrowed the class to police officers and firefighters because of class-action requirements.
Conway police officers and firefighters suing the city can do so with class-action status, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Faulkner County Circuit Judge Troy Braswell did not abuse his discretion when he certified a class of more than 100 firefighters and more than 130 police officers in a lawsuit against the city over a breach of contract, the court determined.
“A court abuses its discretion when it acts improvidently, thoughtlessly, or without due consideration. … We cannot say that the court abused its discretion here, when it carefully considered the complaint and matters in the record to find that common questions were present,” Justice Rhonda Wood wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
Further, the employees all had a common complaint regarding promises made about their pay, the parties who sued had typical complaints compared to the class as a whole, and a class-action lawsuit would be the most efficient way of resolving potentially more than 200 claims, the court ruled.
The city had argued that a class-action case would be impractical because of differing individual complaints.
Police officer Richard Shumate Jr. and firefighter Damon Reed sued the city in 2012, alleging that the city had breached a contract with its employees. The lawsuit sought to represent all city employees but later narrowed the class to police officers and firefighters because of class-action requirements.
Braswell certified the class in December 2015, although he dismissed the lawsuit’s claim that the city illegally used money from a 2001 0.25 percent sales tax for purposes other than increasing employee pay. Shumate and Reed had argued the tax was to be used for employee pay. The class represents people who were employed by the city between Dec. 2, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2012.
The plaintiffs are instead pursuing a breach of contract claim against the city. They allege the city distributed the same pay grid to each employee, and each was told that it represented his salary, but employees were not compensated accordingly.