Past Practice Prohibits Change To Eight-Hour Shift

In 1997, the Township of Sumpter, Michigan and the Police Officers Association of Michigan agreed to 12-hour shifts for patrol officers. The agreement was never incorporated into the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.
Several years later, the Police Chief changed the work shifts of patrol officers from 12 hours to eight hours. The Association challenged the Chief’s decision through the arbitration process.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance, and ordered that 12-hour shifts be reinstated. The Arbitrator concluded that the “work hours” section of the contract was ambiguous, and could merely describe the use of eight or 12-hour shifts if the employer elected to utilize either shift. Given the ambiguity in the contract, the Arbitrator turned to past practice, and found that the consistent and prolonged use of 12-hour shifts in patrol bound the Township to the schedule unless it could obtain a change in the schedule through the arbitration process.

Township of Sumpter, Michigan, LAIG 6340 (Glazer, 2006).

This article appears in the August 2006 issue