Q & A

From Ohio

Question: Our contract states that all police officers will be full-time. Can the city (management) implement part time officers without negotiating because of budget problems?

Answer: The general rule is that the implementation of part-time police jobs is a mandatory subject for bargaining, and cannot be unilaterally implemented without first negotiating with the labor organization. You should check with local counsel to determine whether Ohio follows that rule.

From Nevada

Question: The state of Nevada mandates that certified POST officers take a Heart and Lung Physical. We used to go to an off-site facility at an overtime cost to the department. The department is about to transition to an on-site system, thus eliminating the overtime. There is a packet of information that needs to be completed by the officer. The problem is that the company and our department are requiring us to turn in the completed paperwork to our sergeants in a sealed envelope. The sergeant will then forward it on to the medical company. Is turning in our personal medical information to our sergeants a HIPAA violation?

Answer: We see this more as an ADA issue. Under the ADA, an employer is entitled to inquire about the nature or extent of an employee’s health condition only if it has reasons for doing so that are job related and consistent with business necessity. Medical information obtained under those circumstances has to be placed into a confidential file, accessible by representatives of the employer only on a need-to-know basis. In your situation, since the sergeants aren’t actually reviewing the medical paperwork, we see no basis for an ADA claim.

From South Dakota

Question: Members of our small police union (30 members) recently have been forced to wear cameras on our heads while at work (it’s not the camera we have issue with, it’s wearing it on our head). We have been running into issues recently with safety (cord for camera around neck) and issues in which the videos are not being used to clear IAs. I was hoping someone could tell me if wearing this whole three-piece system would fall under conditions of employment.

Answer: We’ve never encountered this issue before. Our take on this is that the safety implications you describe would likely make this a mandatorily negotiable condition of employment. However, the time to challenge a change in past practice over a mandatory subject of bargaining is when the change is made. From your question, it sounds like the change has been implemented. As such, your rights in this area would only be (1) to raise the issue when the contract is next negotiated; and/or (2) consider involving OSHA in the issue.

This article appears in the May 2011 issue.