Unreasonable To Require Fire Captain To Forfeit Vacation Due To Workers’ Comp Injury

In December 2005, a fire captain for the City of Peabody, Massachusetts Fire Department suffered an on-the-job hernia. The captain was injured while trying to pick up a double-leg amputee who had fallen.

The Department placed the captain on injured-on-duty leave from December 12, 2005 through March 1, 2006. The captain had been intending to take a vacation in late December 2005, but was unable to do so because of his injury.

The collective bargaining agreement between the City and Local 925 of the International Association of Fire Fighters did not strictly address the issue of the carryover of vacation time. However, a past practice had been created that called for the forfeiture of unused vacation time at the end of the year, subject to the right of the Mayor to grant permission for vacation carryover.

When the City required the captain to forfeit his unused vacation time, Local 925 challenged the City’s decision in arbitration.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance. While the Arbitrator acknowledged that the Mayor had, in the past, either granted or denied requests for vacation carryover, he observed that all of the examples presented to him involved healthy employees. The Arbitrator also acknowledged that the City could enact reasonable rules concerning the forfeiture of vacation time. However, the Arbitrator ultimately held that it was unreasonable for the City to deny vacation carryover when the only reason for the employee’s inability to use vacation time was an on-the-job injury.

City of Peabody, Massachusetts and Local 925, International Association of Fire Fighters, LAIG 6490 (Grossman, 2007).

This article appears in the September 2007 issue