City Hall

Dallas First Responders Sue the City Over Pay Dispute

The Dallas Police Association, the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization, the Dallas Fire Fighters Assocation, Dallas Black Fire Fighters Assocation, and the Dallas Hispanic Fire Fighters Assocation are all included in the lawsuit.
The Dallas Police Association, the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization, the Dallas Fire Fighters Assocation, Dallas Black Fire Fighters Assocation, and the Dallas Hispanic Fire Fighters Assocation are all included in the lawsuit. Brian Maschino
Dallas police officers and firefighters have filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming it isn't living up to an agreement on pay adjustments for first responders.

In 2019, the city, its police officers and firefighters signed a three-year agreement that was meant to ensure Dallas had a competitive pay schedule that would allow both departments to recruit and keep employees. This was called a meet-and-confer agreement.

Part of the agreement included market-based pay adjustments. Employee pay at both departments would now increase or decrease at the beginning of each year based on rates in comparable cities.

This was meant to be implemented during the second year of the agreement, but the pandemic caused a delay. During the third year of the agreement, city management recommended the market-based pay adjustments, which subsequently got approval from Dallas City Council.

The city made pay adjustments, but the police officers and firefighters say some of the adjustments happened later than they were supposed to and they didn’t occur across the board. For example, some Dallas first responders have been told they have to wait until their hiring anniversary instead of the beginning of the fiscal year, postponing the pay adjustments significantly for some.

“We’re not asking for anything more than what was agreed in the contract." – Mike Mata, Dallas Police Association

tweet this
So, the firefighters associations and police associations in Dallas banded together to bring a suit against the city demanding that it “immediately implement the market-based increases, retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021,” according to a Dec. 20 press release.

“Our first responders are working tirelessly on the frontlines in the city of Dallas while the city management finds ways to continually delay the agreed upon adjustments,” the group said in the press release. “It is shameful that the city is forcing the Dallas police and firefighters to spend their hard-earned money to take the city to court, just to enforce their written promises."

They say they’ve done all they can to reach a resolution, but the city won’t budge. A Dallas spokesperson told the Observer they don’t comment on pending litigation.

Promises of market-based pay adjustments were made in the 2019 deal. But the deal also says that depending on factors like revenue shortfalls, “the city manager may not be able to recommend or continue full implementation of the market-based pay structure at any time or periods of time during the term of this agreement.”

Jim McDade, president of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, said the lawsuit could shape up to be pretty costily for the city. “Unfortunately, legal processes are long, and during that whole process, we’re also building up interest at the same time,” McDade explained. “When we prevail, not only will they owe us backpay to Oct. 1, but they’ll owe interest on that money also.”

He added, “We don’t want to be doing this. It’s costing us money too.”

But, it didn't have to be this way, Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said. Mata said when the agreement was being created, they tried to include an avenue for arbitration. This way, if there was a conflict about the agreement, a third party could come in and settle it. Mata said the city objected to this, leaving the first responders with the lawsuit as their only means of recourse.

“We were more than happy to sit down with some type of judge, you know, we give our side, they give theirs, and however the judge came out, we would swallow that,” Mata explained. “But the city didn’t want to do that.”

So, they have to take it to court, he said. “We’re not asking for anything more than what was agreed in the contract,” Mata said.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn