DROP Participants Do Not Lose Sick Leave

The Ross Township, Pennsylvania Police Department and the Ross Township Police Association are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. In December 2007, an arbitrator resolved all differences between the Township and the Association as to open negotiations issues. One element of the Arbitrator’s award was a deferred retirement option plan, known as a DROP plan.

Under the DROP plan, officers would retire and immediately return to work. Retiring officers received severance pay through the cash-in of a portion of their leave accruals, and built up additional retirement benefits during the period of time they returned to work after their retirements.

When the Township reduced each DROP participant’s sick leave account to zero hours upon the officer’s initial retirement, the Association challenged the Township’s decision in arbitration. The Arbitrator upheld the Association’s grievance.

The Arbitrator ruled that “the parties have no prior experience or past practice with this issue as the DROP was effective January 1, 2008, and this is the first time this issue has arisen between the parties.” The Arbitrator then turned to the sick leave language in the collective bargaining agreement, which provides that sick leave could not be lost or forfeited for any reason other than an officer’s actual use of sick leave. The Arbitrator concluded that this meant that a DROP participant could maintain his or her sick leave bank as long as they remained an employee of the Township. The only exception to this rule was that to the extent that sick leave was used to provide the basis for the severance payments made to officers, such sick leave hours could be removed from the officers’ banks.

Ross Township, LAIG 6771 (McDowell, 2009).

This article appears in the January 2010 issue