Testimony in ‘Court’ Can Include Appearance Before Commission

A corrections officer working for the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts was subpoenaed to appear before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The Commission was hearing a discrimination complaint filed by a fellow corrections officer against the Department. When the Department refused to compensate the officer for his appearance at the Commission, his labor organization challenged the employer’s decision in arbitration.

The Arbitrator found that the contract’s use of the term “court” was ambiguous, thus allowing him to turn to “extrinsic” aids in interpreting and applying the contract language. In the absence of any past practice or bargaining history, the Arbitrator examined what he referred to as “the underlying purpose of the contract.”

In the Arbitrator’s view, that purpose was to provide for compensation for employees required to testify for job-related matters. The Arbitrator concluded that “certainly, that general purpose is equally valid whether the requested testimony is before a judicial court or the Commission.”

Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, LAIG 6747 (Cochran, 2009).

This article appears in the August 2009 issue