30-Year Past Practice Controls Payment Of Shift Differential

The collective bargaining agreement between Lodge 27 of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Township of Newtown, Pennsylvania calls for the payment of a ten percent shift differential. For more than 30 years, the Township followed the same practice in calculating payment of shift differential to officers working overtime: (1) The Township first multiplied the officer’s base rate by time and one half; and (2) the Township then added an amount equivalent to ten percent of the officer’s base rate.

Lodge 27 filed a grievance, alleging that the Township should have included the amount of the shift differential into its equation before multiplying by time and one half. When the Township rejected the grievance, Local 27 appealed to arbitration.

An arbitrator upheld the Township’s calculations. The Arbitrator observed that either the Township’s or Local 27’s calculations could be consistent with the collective bargaining agreement. However, given the longstanding past practice, which the Arbitrator described as “open, known, consistent and repeatedly used,” the Arbitrator concluded that Local 27 would have to obtain its formula through the negotiations process, not through a grievance arbitration.

Township of Newtown, Pennsylvania, LAIG 6642 (Buchheit, 2008).

This article appears in the December 2008 issue