Employer Not Free To Modify Past Practice Of Vacation Sell-Back

For 20 years, police officers working for the Borough of Zelienople, Pennsylvania Police Department sold back vacation time to the Borough. Officers made notations on payroll sheets as to the amount of vacation time they wished to convert to cash, requests that were routinely granted by the Borough.

In 2006, the Borough changed managers. The new Borough manager issued a memorandum announcing that as of January 1, 2007, the Borough would reject all vacation conversion requests. The labor organization representing the officers challenged the Borough’s decision in arbitration.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance. The Arbitrator applied standard past practice analysis and concluded that the practice of vacation conversion was unambiguous, repeated, longstanding, consistent, and mutual. The Arbitrator also rejected the employer’s argument that its financial conditions had changed, making it unnecessary for it to comply with the past practice. In the Arbitrator’s judgment, the only way the Borough could relieve itself of its obligations under the past practice would be through negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that specifically addressed the issue of vacation conversion.

Borough of Zelienople, Pennsylvania, LAIG 6599 (Franckiewicz, 2008).

This article appears in the July 2008 issue