Dispatchers Not Entitled To Increased Pay For Answering Telephones

The City of Elyria, Ohio and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement that governs the terms and conditions of work for several employee groups in the Elyria Police Department, including dispatchers. Records clerks in the Department are in a different bargaining unit, and are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

When the records clerks are not working, dispatchers are assigned the duties of answering questions over a lobby intercom from citizens who are in the lobby area, answering telephone lines that are forwarded from the records room, and retrieving information from law enforcement data systems when requested by officers. If the records clerks were present, they would perform these duties.

In 2003, the Department and AFSCME agreed that when the records room was closed, a closed sign would be posted and no one other than AFSCME personnel would perform the duties of the records clerks. Notwithstanding this agreement, the Department continued to assign dispatchers to perform duties normally performed by the records clerks. Eventually, the FOP filed a grievance seeking additional pay for dispatchers because they were working “outside of their jurisdiction.”

An arbitrator denied the grievance. The Arbitrator found that “it is undeniable that duties often overlap between classifications. The question is whether those overlapping duties involve relatively minor tasks complementary to the principal job, which is incidental work that can be assigned, or if it is work wholly different from and unrelated to the primary skill or duties of their classified job. Here the work at issue falls within the former for several reasons.

“First, the job assignments about which the dispatchers are grieving have occurred for eleven-and-a-half years. Second, the job duties of Elyria dispatchers, as set forth in ‘Dispatch Operations Manual,’ adopted in January of 1994 and revised in 1996, indicates that Dispatchers are responsible for receiving and evaluating requests from the public for called-for-services. Such requests may be made by telephone or by walk-up complaints. Dispatchers are also responsible for the entry of information into, and the retrieval of information from the various local, state and national computer systems which have terminals (access) in the radio room. These duties have always been an incidental part of the Dispatcher duties.

“It appears from the evidence that the Dispatchers are qualified for, and do perform, some record searches and retrievals as part of their job duties. As an example, the LEADS functions of the Dispatchers and Records clerks overlap. Dispatchers who maintain qualifications in NCIC, LEADS, CAD, and 911 receive an additional $1,000 in their annual base pay. In performing the incidental duties usually performed by Records clerks, the evidence indicates that the Dispatchers do not actually ‘work’ in the Records Room, nor do they perform many of the duties comprising the duties of a Records Clerk. Considering the incidental nature of the work involved and the past practice and custom of the parties as described through the testimony of the Employer witnesses, it cannot be concluded that the Dispatchers are performing the primary work of a Records Clerk or are working out of their classification.”

City of Elyria, 125 LA 1793 (Sellman, 2009).

This article appears in the June 2009 issue