Human Resources Classes Job-Related For Firefighter

The collective bargaining agreement between the Town of Windham, New Hampshire and Local 2195 of the International Association of Fire Fighters has a tuition reimbursement clause. Under the terms of the clause, the Town is obligated to reimburse firefighters for college tuition costs so long as the classes are “job-related.” When the Town denied a tuition reimbursement request for a firefighter who took college courses in “public human resource management” and “financial management and budgeting,” Local 2195 challenged the Town’s decision in arbitration. An arbitrator upheld Local 2195’s grievance.

The Arbitrator pointed to a separate clause in the contract that recognized that degrees in “Fire Protection/Prevention/Science” or “Business Administration” were “fire-related.” The Arbitrator concluded that “since these parties have recognized certain specific degree attainment as being fire-related, it logically leads to the conclusion that courses taken in pursuit of those fire-related degrees must themselves be viewed as job-related to the job of firefighter. The public ‘dimension’ of a public administration degree strengthens rather than erodes that program’s kinship with a Business Administration degree.”

Town of Windham, New Hampshire and Local 2195, International Association of Fire Fighters, LAIG 6547 (Higgins, 2007).

This article appears in the January 2008 issue