City Not Allowed To Require Officer To Obtain Doctor’s Notes As Condition Of Sick Leave Use

In February 2005, the City of Marquette, Michigan suspected that a police officer was abusing his sick leave. The Department required that for the next 180 days the officer obtain a doctor’s note regarding his inability to work due to an illness. The Marquette Professional Police Association challenged the City’s order in arbitration.

An arbitrator sided with the Association. The Arbitrator cited contract language that the Department was required to take “appropriate actions regarding the employee’s use of sick leave.” While the Arbitrator acknowledged that the officer’s low amount of accrued sick leave and that his average annual use of the benefit exceeded other employees in the Department, the Arbitrator held that such facts only established a reasonable basis for a concern by the employer that the officer might be using sick leave, not a conclusion that the officer was, in fact, abusing sick leave.

The Arbitrator commented that the Department’s order “does have a disciplinary aspect to it,” and concluded that the Department should have asked the officer to provide it with information concerning his past use of sick leave prior to issuing an order requiring the doctor’s note.

City of Marquette, Michigan and Marquette Professional Police Association, LAIG 6396 (Girolamo, 2006).

This article appears in the January 2007 issue