Denial Of Firefighter’s Transfer Violates Contract

The collective bargaining agreement between the City of Beaumont, Texas and Local 399 of the International Association of Fire Fighters contains a clause requiring that transfers be based on seniority unless another employee had “overriding merit.” The City chose a 16-year firefighter for a station assignment, turning down a 17.5-year firefighter due to his lack of HAZMAT experience.

An arbitrator ruled that the City’s decision violated the contract. The Arbitrator was sympathetic with the Association’s argument that HAZMAT training was the sort of training that could have been obtained after the firefighter’s training. Since the City had not unambiguously designated the station as requiring all employees to have HAZMAT certification, the Arbitrator held that the senior firefighter reasonably believed he was qualified for the job.

While the Arbitrator granted the grievance, he also held that the City did have the right to prospectively designate the station as requiring HAZMAT certification. For that reason, the Arbitrator limited his award to the particular case before him.

City of Beaumont, LAIG 6838 (Dole, 2010).

This article appears in the August 2010 issue