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Public Policy Prohibits Reinstatement Of Sergeant

Beth Rist worked as a sergeant for the Ironton, Ohio Police Department until October 2008, when she was fired for making a false report. The Fraternal Order of Police referred to arbitration a grievance challenging Rist’s termination. The Arbitrator found that in August 2008, Rist initiated a routine traffic stop. After Rist learned that the driver of the stopped vehicle, Dolly Newcombe, had expired tags and no driver’s license,…

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Union Wins ‘Public Policy’ Challenge To Arbitrator’s Opinion

Most states, and the United States Supreme Court, have found a narrow “public policy” exception to the general rule that arbitrators’ opinions are final and binding. The usual rubric is that for the exception to apply, there must be an “explicit, well defined and dominant public policy” violated by the arbitrator’s decision. Usually, the “public policy” exception is the province of employers seeking to overturn arbitration awards. Because of…

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City Loses ‘Public Policy’ Challenge To Arbitrator’s Opinion Reinstating Fire Inspector

As the previous article indicates, the “public policy” exception to the finality of arbitrator’s opinions is a narrow one, and is usually unsuccessful. A recent case involving the San Jose Fire Department illustrates the narrow scope of the exception. The case involved Michael Baldwin, a fire inspector. In April 2008, a co-worker complained about Baldwin’s inappropriate behavior toward herself and other female employees, prompting an investigation by the City….

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Public Records Law Trumps Arbitrator’s Decision

In September 2007, Local 890 of the International Association of Fire Fighters filed a grievance challenging a reprimand issued by the Klamath County, Oregon Fire District to a firefighter. During the grievance process, the District discovered new information and rescinded the reprimand. The District removed the disciplinary investigation records from the firefighter’s personnel file and placed them into a separate sealed file. The Association then filed a new grievance,…

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Remotely-Assigned Firefighter Does Not Count Towards Staffing Minimums

The collective bargaining agreement between the North Andover Firefighters Union and the Town of North Andover, Massachusetts requires that the Town have a minimum of eight firefighters assigned to fire suppression on duty at all times. On June 3, 2008, the Town assigned one of its firefighters to travel to a nearby town to assist in the repair of a ladder truck. The Union filed a grievance, contending that…

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Arbitrator, Not Court, Should Decide What ‘Mutual Agreement’ Means

The collective bargaining agreement covering detention officers working for the Woodbury County, Iowa Sheriff’s Department contains a clause allowing the use of compensatory time off in lieu of cash compensation for overtime. Under the contract, the County was authorized to grant compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay “upon mutual agreement between an employee and the Sheriff.” For budgetary and scheduling reasons, the Woodbury County Sheriff elected to…

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DROP Plan Does Not Violate State Pension Law

The Borough of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania and the Ellwood City Police Department Wage and Policy Committee (Union) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The agreement gave the parties 180 days to negotiate a Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP. When no agreement on the terms of a DROP was reached, the Union referred the matter to arbitration. An arbitration board issued an award directing the Borough to modify…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Award Requiring Disciplinary Retraining Of Sheriff, Aides

Jan Bartleson became a Yakima County, Washington sheriff’s deputy in 1995. She generally received positive work reviews until January 2001, when she received a three-day suspension for an on-duty automobile accident. The Yakima County Law Enforcement Officers Guild filed a grievance and the suspension was reduced to one day. Thereafter, Bartleson’s relationship with Sheriff Ken Irwin began to deteriorate. Bartleson exhausted her paid leave due to a combination of…

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Arbitrator, Not Court, Should Hear Vacation Dispute

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The contract contains an “incorporation” clause, providing that “all existing ordinances of the Board of Supervisors affecting wages, hours and conditions of employment not inconsistent with this agreement are incorporated herein.” The Association and a number of its members sued the County, contending that it was violating an ordinance dealing with the determination…

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‘Gross Error’ Required To Reverse Arbitrator’s Decision In Alaska

The termination of a four-year officer of the Airport Police and Fire Department of the Alaska Department of Transportation gave the Alaska Supreme Court the opportunity to revisit the standard used to evaluate arbitrators’ opinions. The termination was based on two events that occurred in May 2006 while the officer was working at the Alaska Law Enforcement Academy in Sitka, Alaska, and on the officer’s conduct during the subsequent…

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Arbitrator Orders Massachusetts City To Return Take-Home Vehicles To Police Commanders

A directive from the Mayor of Methuen, Massachusetts removing take-home vehicles from police commanders has been rescinded by an arbitrator. The evidence presented suggested that take-home vehicles were given to police commanders since at least 2002; however, the parties’ collective bargaining agreement was silent on the subject. Local 17 of the New England Police Benevolent Association argued that this benefit was guaranteed through principles of past practice, while the…

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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…

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Sergeant Entitled To Premium Pay While On Disability

A sergeant with the City of Peekskill, New York Police Department received $5,000 per year for acting as senior Narcotics Investigation Unit supervisor. When the sergeant went on disability status, the City discontinued his premium pay. The sergeant’s labor organization, the Peekskill Police Association, challenged the City’s decision in arbitration. An arbitrator upheld the Association’s grievance. The Arbitrator concluded that the premium pay “was not payment for hours actually…

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Fire Department’s No-Layoff Clause Subject To Binding Arbitration

The Johnson City, New York Professional Firefighters, Local 921 IAFF and the Village of Johnson City are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The contract provides that “the Village shall not lay off any member of the bargaining unit during the term of the contract.” The Contract also includes a grievance procedure by which disputes “involving the interpretation or application of any provisions of the contract are subject to…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion Reversing Administrative Suspension Without Pay Pending Investigation

Christopher Winesburg is a trooper employed by the Pennsylvania State Police. During the weekend of March 1, 2008, Winesburg was involved in an incident with a woman after both left a nightclub in Ocean City, Maryland. Ocean City police were called to the scene, but they did not file criminal charges against Winesburg. Twelve days later, however, the woman filed a private complaint against Winesburg, and he was charged…

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Sleeping Officer Properly Denied Standby Pay

The collective bargaining agreement between Lodge 9 of the Fraternal Order of Police and the City of Grove City, Ohio calls for “court standby pay” when officers are required to remain in ready status to report for court testimony. On June 26, 2007, a graveyard shift officer had a “court standby” subpoena for 10:00 a.m. The officer fell asleep, and did not respond to telephone calls seeking his appearance….

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Interest Arbitrator Must Analyze All Statutory Criteria

The Borough of Paramus, New Jersey and Local 186 of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) were unable to agree upon the terms of a new contract to begin in 2008. New Jersey, like most states with collective bargaining, has a statutory scheme where negotiations for public safety officers end with binding arbitration if a voluntary agreement is not reached. The New Jersey statute contains a list of criteria the…

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Employer Must Proceed to Arbitration on Grievance That Is ‘Arguably Arbitrable’

Lake County, Michigan and the Police Officers Association of Michigan are parties to a collective bargaining agreement covering members of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. The parties’ 2003-2005 collective bargaining agreement expired without a new contract. A tentative agreement on a new contract was reached in May 2006, but did not state when the new contract would take effect. However, the agreement provided that a change in the seniority…

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Grievance Procedure Excludes Challenges To Terminations

The collective bargaining agreement between the City of Lowell, Massachusetts and the Lowell Police Association contains a grievance procedure that culminates with binding arbitration. Paragraph 4 in the grievance procedure states that “any matter which is subject to the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission, or any retirement board established by law, shall not be a subject of arbitration.” Paragraph 3 of the grievance procedure states that “grievances involving…

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Arbitrator’s Opinion Must Be Upheld If Conclusions Are ‘Reasonably Debatable’

The City of Trenton, New Jersey is party to a collective bargaining agreement with Local 11 of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association. On September 5, 2006, the Police Director issued a memorandum requiring patrol officers to appear ten minutes prior to the beginning of their shift. A similar directive was later issued to detectives. No compensation was paid to the officers or detectives for this ten-minute early muster. Local 11…

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Arbitrator’s Decision Insisting On Technical Details For Grievance Overturned On Public Policy Grounds

The District of Columbia and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement governing the rank-and-file members of the Metropolitan Police Department. The FOP filed a grievance challenging what it believed to be an inappropriate delay in paying overtime for police officers who worked a detail providing security and escort services during the cleanup and detoxification of the World War I-era hazardous waste site…

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Administrative Leave Improper, Termination Proper

A police officer for the Town of Hooksett, Massachusetts, who was just off of probation, was involved in an off-duty motor vehicle accident. The Town initially placed the officer on unpaid administrative leave and, after an investigation, terminated him. The officer’s labor organization, Local 633 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, challenged both the administrative leave and the termination in arbitration. An arbitrator found that the use of administrative…

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In Spite Of Brady Rule, Washington Supreme Court Reinstates Arbitrator’s Opinion Overturning Deputy’s Discharge For Untruthfulness

Brian LaFrance worked as a deputy for the Kitsap County, Washington Sheriff's Department for 14 years, during which he was disciplined several times. Beginning in May 2000, LaFrance began to behave unusually. He had been assigned to a child pornography task force, and he became “obsessive” and “fixated” on this work and on “protecting the children.” Despite repeated warnings and reprimands, LaFrance continued to work outside his regular shift…

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Back Pay Includes Missed Overtime

An often-argued issue in disciplinary arbitrations is whether an award of back pay can properly include an award of missed overtime. One of the more respected arbitrators in the country, Stanley Sergent, recently held that back pay awards could include compensation for missed overtime opportunities. The case came to Arbitrator Sergent via an unusual route. The City of Lake Worth, Florida, terminated a sergeant. After a hearing, Arbitrator Charles…

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‘Statement Of The Issue’ In Arbitration Can Be Significant

Most arbitration hearings begin with the advocates attempting to frame the “statement of the issue” for the Arbitrator. To those without much arbitration experience, the process may seem to be an arcane one. A recent Connecticut case, however, illustrates the significance of the “statement of the issue” process. The case involved the demotion of Derek Austin, a lieutenant with the State of Connecticut Department of Correction, from the position…

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