Lieutenants Do Not Have Right To Bargain Under Maryland Ordinance

Maryland does not have a statewide collective bargaining law for police officers or firefighters. Instead, for collective bargaining to be required, it must be adopted on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. In 2002, the voters of the City of Ocean City, Maryland passed by referendum vote an ordinance that allows “employees of the Ocean City Police Department to engage in collective bargaining.” The referendum further directed the Ocean City Council to enact a labor code, and, within that code, to address the “manner of establishing units appropriate for collective bargaining.” In complying with the referendum, the Council adopted a labor code. However, in so doing, the Council effectively precluded officers in the rank of lieutenant and higher from participating in collective bargaining. Six members of the Ocean City Police Department holding the rank of either lieutenant or captain filed a lawsuit challenging the City’s decision.

The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the City Council’s decision to bar lieutenants and captains from bargaining. The Court found that to read the charter amendment permitting “employees of the Ocean City Police Department” to engage in collective bargaining to mean “all employees of the Ocean City Police Department” was “illogical, unreasonable, and inconsistent with common sense.” As put by the Court, “to read the charter amendment, as the officers wish us to do, that is, that all employees of the Police Department, including the Chief of Police himself, may engage in collective bargaining, is an unreasonable interpretation of the strictures of the amendment. It plainly offends the basic principles of collective bargaining, creating unresolvable conflicts of interest between Ocean City and its command staff and within the command staff itself.”

Mayor and City Council of Ocean City v. Bunting, 2006 WL 861068 (Md.App. 2006).

This article appears in the May 2006 issue