Police Department Sick Leave Counseling Notices Not Subject To Grievance Procedure

Concerned about sick leave use, the Police Department of the Town of Arlington, Massachusetts placed “counseling notices” in the personnel files of several police officers. The counseling notices carried no disciplinary consequences, and notified the officers that the non-scheduled absences were disruptive to the Department and placed an undue scheduling burden on other officers.

The Arlington Patrolmen’s Betterment Association, representing rank-and-file officers in the Department, challenged the issuance of the counseling notices through the arbitration process. An arbitrator rejected the Association’s grievance. The Arbitrator held that in the absence of an express prohibition in the contract, and without any disciplinary consequences attaching to the counseling notices, nothing in the contract prohibited the employer from placing such notices in the personnel files of employees.

The Arbitrator viewed the counseling notices as a valid “personnel management tool or technique,” and commented that the Department also placed positive notices in employees’ personnel files when employees had lower than average rates of utilization of sick leave.

Town of Arlington, Massachusetts and Arlington Patrolmen’s Betterment Association, LAIG 6331 (Marrow, 2006).

This article appears in the May 2006 issue