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Arbitrator Can Consider Conduct Of Parties In Construing Contract Language

Pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between Local 3111 of the IAFF and Anderson Township, Ohio, Lieutenant William Tillett received notice that disciplinary proceedings were being initiated against him because he had surrendered his fire-inspection certification. When the Department eventually demoted Tillett, Local 3111 challenged the demotion in arbitration. At the arbitration hearing, Tillett testified that he served as president of Local 3111 for approximately 18…

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Unions Have ‘Great Discretion’ In Deciding Whether To Seek Arbitration

Jose F. Valencia sued the Santa Fe Police Officers Association for breach of duty of fair representation. Valencia requested that the Association challenge his termination for dishonesty in arbitration. The Association’s Board scheduled a meeting on February 16, 2010, to consider the request. Two Board members, the President and the former President, recused themselves from the February 16 proceedings as they were the subjects of allegations made by Valencia…

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Officer’s Lawyer Required To Pay $66k In Fees To City

The Village of Orland Park, Illinois fired Officer Joseph McGreal after he spoke at a November 2009 Village board meeting. At the meeting, he suggested several solutions to a budgetary shortfall facing the Village. McGreal’s recommendations would have protected junior officers from layoffs by eliminating benefits enjoyed by more senior officers. McGreal believed that these suggestions motivated his June 2010 termination; however, the Village contended that it fired McGreal…

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Destruction Of Disciplinary Records Violates Public Policy

In 2011 and 2012, Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents officers in the Chicago Police Department, filed grievances seeking the destruction of disciplinary records older than five years. Section 8.4 of the Lodge’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provides that “all disciplinary investigation files, disciplinary history card entries, Independent Police Review Authority and Internal Affairs Division disciplinary records, and any other disciplinary record or summary of…

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Staffing Grievance Is Arbitrable

The Watertown Firefighters Association in New York filed a grievance contending that the City violated provisions in its labor agreement relating to minimum staffing levels for shifts and regular operations within the City of Watertown’s Fire Department. The City refused to proceed to arbitration, contending that the staffing clauses were “unenforceable job security provisions that violate public policy.” A New York court ordered the City to submit to arbitration….

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Employer Must Arbitrate Changed EMS Duties

The city of Yonkers, New York and the Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628 of the IAFF are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The management rights clause of the contract allows the City to control the management of the fire department with certain limitations. It also allows the City to alter the Department’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) after negotiation with Local 628. The contract requires that the EMS program…

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Pennsylvania Court Struggles With Arbitrator’s Opinion Reinstating Officer

The Northern Berks Regional Police Commission provides police services to certain parts of Berks County, Pennsylvania. The Commission is a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police. In September 2016, the Commission terminated Officer Charles Hobart due to misconduct. Specifically, the Department learned that Hobart kept a file folder in his desk containing (1) explicit pictures of females in different stages of undress, (2)…

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If There’s A Last Chance Agreement, What’s Left To Arbitrate?

Thomas Eccleston is a firefighter with the City of Waterbury, Connecticut. Eccleston was arrested and charged with third degree assault and breach of the peace in the second degree, which caused the City to place Eccleston on paid administrative leave pending the completion of an investigation. On November 19, 2015, Eccleston and the president of his labor organization, the Waterbury Fire Fighters Association, signed a last chance agreement. The…

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Arbitration Decision Binding In Later Discrimination Lawsuit

From December 10, 2001 to September 25, 2012, Joshua Billings worked for the Public Safety Department of the Town of Steilacoom, Washington. On May 8, 2012, the City demoted Billings from the rank of sergeant to Public Safety Office (PSO). PSOs served dual roles as police officers and firefighters under the supervision of a Police Chief. Following several internal affairs investigations, the Chief concluded Billings violated numerous policies and…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion Imposing ‘Reasonable Doubt’ Burden Of Proof

In February 2015, the East Dundee and Countryside Fire Protection District in Illinois terminated Lieutenant Anthony Pompa, who had 15 years of service with the District. The District alleged that Pompa engaged in misconduct by emailing a continuing education test answer sheet to two firefighters. Pompa declined to testify at a hearing before the District’s Board of Fire Commissioners. The Board sustained the charges against Pompa, and conducted a…

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Employer Not Allowed To Terminate Contract While Arbitration Pending

Under Illinois law, firefighter and police unions have the right to seek binding interest arbitration if negotiations for a new contract are not successful. When negotiations with the Village of North Riverside came to impasse, Local 2714 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) sought interest arbitration. The Village responded by sending a letter to all firefighters announcing its intention to terminate the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and…

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Cross-Examination Style Not Breach Of Duty Of Fair Representation

Nancy Newfer is a corporal for Wayne County, Michigan Sheriff’s Department. On November 12, 2016, Newfer and another officer were involved in an incident at the jail. Newfer was interviewed by Internal Affairs Division employees about the incident and signed a statement. The other officer was later discharged; his conduct during the incident played at least some role in his discharge. Newfer was not disciplined. Newfer and the disciplined…

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Arbitrator’s ‘Chokehold’ Opinion Upheld

As the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts charmingly started off a recent opinion: In Boston on St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, three friends, Michael O’Brien, Thomas Cincotti and Eric Leverone, “having consumed some alcohol during the daytime celebrations, proceeded to a Faneuil Hall bar where O’Brien received free drinks by virtue of knowing the staff and owners.” Because Leverone had recently returned from active military duty, patrons purchased him…

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Q & A

From Florida Question: I’ve often heard from my union’s legal defense plan that we cannot go to arbitration for a written reprimand because the grievant has no “property loss” and that the arbitrator can’t rescind the written reprimand. Often our members feel like this is an excuse by the legal defense plan because the LDP doesn’t want to spend the money on the arbitration. While a written reprimand doesn’t…

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No Evidence That Arbitrator Was Partial In Chief’s Termination Case

Matthew Cummings was the Police Chief for Newton, Massachusetts. Cummings worked under an employment contract, which specified that any dispute concerning his “termination of employment…shall be resolved exclusively by arbitration under the Voluntary Labor Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association.” The agreement also specified that “the arbitrator’s decision, if in accordance with law, shall be final and binding upon the parties.” When the City terminated Cummings for conduct…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s ‘Reasonably Debatable’ Decision On Overtime For Shift Change

The collective bargaining agreement between Middletown Township, New Jersey and the Middletown Township Police Superior Officers Association contains a clause that “Management has the right to change shifts or the hours worked but must negotiate any impact of its changes in reference to changes, wages, overtime and other compensation with the union.” A different labor organization represents the rank-and-file members of the Township’s police department. In January 2012, the…

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Curious Court Decision Overturning Arbitrator’s Opinion

An arbitrator’s past practice decision as to placement of newly-promoted police sergeants on the employer’s salary schedule has produced a most unusual court decision in Illinois. The case arose out of the Cook County Forest Preserve District, which has a law enforcement agency. The Fraternal Order of Police filed two grievances concerning the placement of newly-promoted patrol officers on the sergeants’ salary schedule. The Union argued that the placement…

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Arbitrator, Not Court, Should Define ‘Grandparents’

Deputy Angela Molea submitted a request to her employer, the Summit County Sheriff’s Department in Ohio, to use bereavement leave to attend the funeral of her husband’s grandfather. The collective bargaining agreement between the County and Molea’s labor organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, permitted the use of bereavement leave for “grandparents.” Although similar requests had been granted in the past, the Sheriff denied Molea’s request, citing the execution…

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Arbitrator Overturns Chief’s Termination

Matthew Cummings was the Chief of Police for the City of Newton, Massachusetts. Allegations of misconduct came to the attention of the Mayor, who retained an outside contractor to undertake an investigation. When it received his report, the City filed five charges of conduct unbecoming a police chief. At a pre-disciplinary hearing, Cummings called three witnesses, offered no exhibits, and did not testify. The hearing officer found that Cummings…

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Arbitrator Can Consider Unfunded Pension Obligation In Deciding Sick Leave Issue

Local 49 of the International Association of Fire Fighters represents firefighters working for the City of Bloomington, Illinois. Since 1992, the parties’ various collective bargaining agreements included a sick leave “buy-back” provision, pursuant to which the City would compensate retiring firefighters for unused sick leave time. The 2009 to 2012 contract allowed Union members to receive payment from the City for 100% of their unused sick leave, up to…

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Arbitrator Should Decide Whether Discipline Grievance Is Arbitrable

The Village of Bartonville, Illinois and Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The Village terminated Officer Salvador Lopez for violating Police Department procedures in July 2014 when he allegedly drew his firearm during a traffic stop and pointed it at the motorist involved, without proper grounds for doing so. The Committee filed a grievance challenging the termination, but the Village refused to proceed to…

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Reinstatement Of Officer Does Not Violate Public Policy

Juma Jones is a police officer with the Town of East Hartford, Connecticut. While on the job, Jones accessed a police data system known as “COLLECT” on a number of occasions in violation of department policy. On one occasion, Jones used the system to obtain the address of a former girlfriend. He went to that person’s home uninvited and was arrested for criminal trespass and breach of the peace….

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Arbitrator, Not Court, Determines Whether Grievance Is Timely

In June 2012, the Village of Tequesta, Florida terminated Officer John Cox’s employment. A collective bargaining agreement between Cox’s union and the Village provided for termination “for just cause.” The agreement set forth a three-step grievance and arbitration procedure to be followed in the event an employee challenged his or her termination. When the Village refused to process Cox’s grievance to arbitration, he brought a lawsuit seeking to compel…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion In Deadly Force Case

On January 29, 2010, while on duty, Portland Police Officer Ron Frashour shot and killed Aaron Campbell, who was unarmed. The incident began as a welfare check. Police had received a call that Campbell, who possessed a gun and was distraught over the recent death of his brother, might be in a certain apartment, might be suicidal, and might be threatening to commit “suicide by police.” The situation escalated…

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Arbitration Award Can Retroactively Increase Employee Health Premiums

The last contract between the Kitsap County Deputy Sheriffs’ Guild and Kitsap County, Washington was effective from 2008-2009. Under that CBA, deputies were not required to pay for their own health insurance premiums, but were required to pay 10% of their dependents’ premiums. During negotiations for the 2010-2012 CBA, the County proposed a shift in premiums such that employees would have to pay 3% of their own premiums and…

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