Timeliness Defects Must Be Raised Early In Grievance Procedure

The Madison Township, Michigan Fire Fighters Union filed a grievance challenging the Fire Department’s decision to hire a temporary worker to replace a bargaining unit paramedic who was using extended sick leave. The Township contended that the grievance was not arbitrable because it had not been filed in a timely manner.

An arbitrator rejected the Township’s “timeliness” argument. Citing well-established arbitration rules, the Arbitrator ruled that employers must raise challenges to the timeliness of grievances early in the grievance procedure. Because the Township’s challenge was not raised until its closing brief filed after the arbitration had been held, the Arbitrator ruled that the Township had waived the right to make the untimeliness claim.

Turning to the merits of the case, the Arbitrator found that the Township had violated a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that required the Township to show two predicates before it subcontracted any work: (1) That it established that there was a lack of funds or work; and (2) that it give the Union 30 days’ notice of its intent to subcontract. Since neither of these conditions occurred, the Arbitrator found that the decision to hire a temporary employee violated the collective bargaining agreement.

The Arbitrator also found significant that the Township originally offered the two remaining full-time paramedics overtime to replace the absent paramedic, but rescinded the offer and instead hired the temporary employee.

Madison Township, Michigan, LAIG 6725 (Frankland, 2008).

This article appears in the August 2009 issue