Police Union Has Right To Suspend Member For One Year

Donald Berich is a police officer employed by the City of Ithaca, New York. When Berich was appointed as training coordinator for the Police Department, his labor organization, the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association (PBA), filed grievances against the City claiming that the appointment violated the collective bargaining agreement.

The PBA asked Berich to voluntarily relinquish his position as training coordinator while the grievances were pending. Berich declined to do so, and the PBA ultimately disciplined him by suspending him from membership for one year for conduct it considered to be injurious to its interests.

Berich sued the PBA, contending it had no right to suspend him for one year. An appeals court dismissed Berich’s lawsuit.

The Court held that “within contracts of association there inheres a term binding members to loyal support of the society in the attainment of its proper purposes, and that for a gross breach of this obligation the power of expulsion is impliedly conferred on the association.”

The Court ruled that Berich effectively took the side of the employer when he refused to relinquish an assignment that the PBA claimed was made in violation of its collective bargaining agreement. The Court held that the PBA “reasonably considered this action as disloyal and injurious to its interests and, as a result, a breach of Berich’s implied and express obligations as a member.”

Berich v. Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, 2005 WL 3073388 (N.Y.A.D. 2005).

This article appears in the January 2006 issue