Fire Department Cannot Unilaterally Change Disciplinary Standards For Lack Of Driver’s License

Rank-and-file firefighters for the City of Los Angeles are represented by United Firefighters Local 112. In October, 2008, the parties signed an agreement that provided for the following discipline for the “failure to maintain a valid driver’s license with proper endorsements” as follows: First Offense, Reprimand to 5-Day Suspension; Second Offense, 6 to 15-Day Suspension; Third Offense, 16 to 30-Day Suspension or Board of Rights (possible termination).

In 2010, the Department issued a bulletin that stated that a valid driver’s license was “a condition of employment.” Local 112 challenged the bulletin through the grievance procedure in the collective bargaining agreement.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance. In the judgment of the Arbitrator, “the parties agreed through extensive ‘meet and confer’ sessions, both formal and informal, that a certain standard should exist for the failure of unit members to maintain a Driver’s License with proper endorsements. It is not within the province of the Arbitrator to question the need for such standards.

“The fact is, after an agreement is reached on any matter and it is properly ‘signed, sealed and delivered’, it becomes ‘gospel,’ so to speak. The rationale advanced by the employer regarding the need for new standards is irrelevant. The Arbitrator has before him an ‘up or down question.’ Was the agreement violated based upon a preponderance of the evidence as put forth by the union? Evidence is clear that the parties in October 2008, signed an agreement that provided

discipline for the ‘failure to maintain a valid driver’s license with proper endorsements.’ Evidence is also clear and convincing that on or about May 19, 2010, the Employer unilaterally, without meeting and conferring, implemented a new set of standards. The Arbitrator cannot find that the action of the Employer was proper.”

City of Los Angeles, Case No. ARB 2996 (Hart, 2011).

This article appears in the February 2012 issue.