Whitted v. City of Newburgh
Justice Lawrence Ecker
Petitioners, retired firefighters for City of Newburgh, receive disability benefits for line-of-duty injuries. City entered into a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with active firefighters, who accepted a five percent salary reduction that was applicable to all "bargaining unit members," except as required by law. City informed petitioners their benefits would be reduced, and petitioners sued to prevent any decrease to their disability payments claiming they were not "bargaining unit members" under the CBA. City's counsel argued that as retired firefighters were given the benefit of any salary increases given active firefighters, they were subject to any reductions. The court agreed noting petitioners failed to proffer a persuasive argument why they should not be subject to the same salary decrease as active firefighters, especially as they benefitted from any subsequent increases. It stated permitting the decrease assured that a disabled firefighter's salary was calculated based on the current salary of an active firefighter at the same grade the disabled firefighter held upon retirement. The Court of Appeals held that permitting a disabled firefighter's benefits to exceed an active firefighter's salary was contrary to underlying legislative intent, thus the petition was denied.