Arbitrator Should Decide Sick Leave Issues

In April 2006, the Police Chief for the City of Binghamton, New York instituted new rules with regard to the use of sick leave. In July 2009, a police officer represented by the Binghamton Police Benevolent Association was counseled about an alleged pattern of suspected sick leave abuse and was ordered to provide doctor’s notes for all future sick leave absences. Shortly thereafter, the officer was again absent on sick leave and, failing to submit a doctor’s note, was recommended for a two-day suspension without pay.

In response, the Association filed a grievance, claiming a violation of the collective bargaining agreement and a departure from past practices. When the Association demanded arbitration on the issue, the City filed a petition in court seeking to block the arbitration.

New York’s Appellate Division Court rejected the City’s request. The Court observed that it “should merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the contract.” Since the Association alleged that formal counseling and the restriction placed on the officer’s use of sick leave constituted violations of the sick leave and discipline articles of the contract, and since the contract required arbitration of “any grievance or dispute which may arise between the parties involving the application, meaning, or interpretation of this agreement,” the Court found that an arbitrator should decide whether “the precise scope of those provisions covers the issues presently disputed.”

In re Arbitration Between City of Binghamton and Binghamton Police Benevolent Association, Inc., 918 N.Y.S.2d 904 (N.Y. A.D. 3 Dist. 2011).

This article appears in the June 2011 Issue