Dallas first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, could be owed up to one billion dollars in unpaid wages. However, getting the money that they believe they deserve based on a 1979 public safety pay referendum is proving more difficult than they might have imagined.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, first responders and public safety figures in Dallas began filing lawsuits that claimed they were owed raises due to a decades-old law that gave significant raises to police officers and firefighters. Now, more than 1,500 workers are involved in the Texas unpaid wages lawsuit. However, the city of Dallas argues that the 1979 pay referendum is being interpreted incorrectly – and also that Dallas has sovereign immunity from being sued in such a way. In recent years Dallas has filed counter-lawsuits against those initiating litigation – a move that some unpaid wage lawyers believes waives their rights to sovereign immunity.
While public service workers think that the 1979 referendum granted police and firefighters raises every time that the City Council gave out a raise to any related worker, the city of Dallas argued that the referendum simply granted first responders a one-time 15 percent pay increase.
Although the Dallas police officers and Dallas firefighters could ultimately bankrupt the city they work for by going through with this unpaid wages lawsuit, they also put forth that they want o continue to do their jobs and protect Dallas residents. Some just want some sort of financial boost – not the full amount that they believe they are owed.