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Officer ‘Public Official’ For Purposes Of Defamation Lawsuit

In a case involving Officer Frank Fones of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals began its opinion by writing that “this is, at its core, an employment dispute that seeks an encore as a defamation claim.” Fones served as a canine officer for about twenty years. He was transferred out of that unit after a series of events involving his assigned police canine, Chip….

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion Reinstating Officer Who Installed Hidden Cameras

Officer Daniel Wagner works for the Aurora, Illinois Police Department. Wagner and his wife Lisa were divorced in July 2016. Wagner and Lisa have two children: a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. During the divorce proceedings, Wagner lived in the marital home in Sugar Grove. Afterward, Lisa retained the property and Wagner moved out. However, Lisa permitted Wagner to have access to the home, to help with maintenance,…

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Granting Benefits To Management Employees Can Violate Union’s Rights

The United Chief Officers Association is the exclusive bargaining representative for the 10-13 battalion chiefs in the Contra Costa County Fire District. Although the fire marshal and fire training chief classifications are unrepresented, these positions have traditionally been regarded as lateral peers of the battalion chiefs and received comparable pay and benefits. The District is a separate entity from Contra Costa County; however, the County’s Board of Supervisors serves…

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Officer Loses Pension On Conviction For Fraud

Joseph Deignan was a police officer with the Town of Watertown, Massachusetts. Under a Massachusetts statute, members of the state retirement system lose their pensions “after final conviction of a criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.” Under a series of cases, Massachusetts courts have ruled that for pension forfeiture to occur, there must be a direct link between the criminal offense and…

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Anti-Union Animus, Not Profanity, True Basis For Firing

Teamsters Local 261 represents the corrections officers working for Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Before being represented by Local 261, the bargaining unit was represented by the Laborers Union, which disclaimed interest in the bargaining unit on January 19, 2017, following expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on December 31, 2016. Corrections officer Kevin Boston was instrumental in the bargaining unit affiliating with Local 261 and served on Local 261’s bargaining…

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County Cannot Terminate Widow’s Workers’ Compensation Death Benefit

On December 27, 2010, while working as a Fort Bend County Deputy Sheriff, John Norsworthy swerved to avoid road debris that had fallen off a flatbed delivery truck owned and operated by SBS/Bison Building Materials and driven by Morris Crosby. John suffered fatal injuries. The County initiated workers’ compensation benefits, paying one week of temporary income benefits of $689.47, medical benefits of $215,011.87, and after his death on January…

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DROP Benefits Can Be Prospectively Reduced

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System (DROP) provides comprehensive retirement, death, and disability benefits for some 9,300 Dallas police officers, firefighters, pensioners, and qualified survivors. Officers and firefighters automatically become System members when they enter the training academy. While in active service, they and the City of Dallas contribute to their accounts. A member reaching retirement age can leave active service and begin drawing a monthly annuity based…

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California Supreme Court Ducks (For Now) Major Retirement Question But Allows End To ‘Air Time’

Employers and unions across California had been waiting anxiously for the California Supreme Court’s decision in a case involving Cal Fire Local 2881 of the IAFF. The Court was expected to address two issues – the “California Rule” and “air time.” The most important of the two issues was the continued viability of what has long been known as the California Rule. Under the California Rule, retirement benefits for…

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Lengthy Placement On Administrative Leave Violates Past Practice

On December 2, 2015, five officers with the San Francisco Police Department were involved in an officer-involved shooting (OIS) in which a young man, Mario Woods, was killed. This shooting occurred in the midst of a period of intense scrutiny and became highly publicized as well as the subject of interest from the news media, social media, various communities, and the family and friends of Woods. The Department transferred…

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Interview With Margaret Brogan

Will asks arbitrator Margaret Brogan the questions you were afraid to ask — or maybe didn’t know you need to be asking. How much credence do you really give hearsay, anyway? Would you rather see a brief and/or a closing argument and why? What are the five things that irritate you as an arbitrator? Are expert witnesses really worth the money and time? Does the burden of proof in…

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Florida Officers Lose Claim For Malicious Prosecution

In 2011, Sergeant Omar Paez, Sergeant Lyndean Peters, and Officer Yovany Diaz of the Golden Beach Police Department in Florida were arrested on various charges of public corruption. The officers were accused of, among other things, fraudulently failing to report off-duty police work that would have required them to pay administrative fees to the Department. The officers were never tried and the criminal charges were dropped more than three…

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A Captain, A Polygrapher, Women, Bikers, And Protected Speech

On December 31, 2013, Paul Carey retired from the Maryland Natural Resources Police (MNRP) after 26 years of service. He began working for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in August 2015. On May 25, 2017, three months before Carey’s contract expired, the Department abruptly fired him without giving him a reason for his termination. Carey sued, alleging that he was fired from DNR in retaliation for two posts…

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Only Union, Not Firefighter, Has Right To Challenge Arbitration Decision

Sean Gannon was a firefighter for the City of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Local 1261 of the IAFF represents the City’s firefighters. The City terminated Gannon in November 2013 and Local 1261 challenged the termination decision through the arbitration process. After several days of hearings, the Arbitrator rendered a decision on March 2, 2016, finding in favor of the City. When Local 1261 elected not to challenge the Arbitrator’s decision…

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Blanket ‘Gag Order’ Violates Bargaining Law

Santa Clara County in California is in a bargaining relationship with the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association. Lance Scimeca was elected Association President in 2012. No Association members have release time from the County to act as union representatives. In August 2015, the parties were negotiating a successor Memorandum of Understanding (California’s equivalent of a collective bargaining agreement) and reached a tentative agreement sometime in mid-September. During…

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Exclusionary Rule Does Not Apply In Disciplinary Appeal

Ernesto Ramirez, Jr., was a correctional officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. On December 10, 2011, Ramirez attended a social gathering at the home of a fellow correctional officer, Jorge Molina. At the get-together, Ramirez was in possession of his off-duty firearm while consuming alcohol, which was against Department policy. Ramirez also passed his firearm around to other guests at Molina’s house. Ramirez later drove himself…

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The Lesser The Discipline, The Less ‘Process That Is Due’

Like most Supreme Court opinions, the procedural due process decision in Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985) is painted with a very broad brush. This has left it to the lower courts to more precisely define the amount of ‘process that is due’ under Loudermill. As illustrated by a Pennsylvania case, one basic principle that has developed over the years is that there is a…

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Denial Of Transfer Can Be ‘Adverse Employment Action’

Employment discrimination lawsuits require a measurable amount of harm towards an employee or an applicant, harm usually quantified by the phrase “adverse employment action.” Some employer decisions – terminations, refusals to hire, demotions, suspensions, etc. – easily fall into the rubric of “adverse employment action.” But what of transfers, particularly where an employee’s transfer request is denied and the only potential loss of pay is associated with a relative…

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Officer Allowed Trial On Military Leave Discrimination Claim

Nicholas W. Emmerling began his career in 2008 with the Mountain View Police Department in California as a reserve police officer. Emmerling enlisted in the California Army National Guard in January 2009, and he was deployed to Iraq in August 2009. The Department granted him leave for one year until August 2010, after which he returned to his position as a reserve officer. In early 2012, Emmerling applied for…

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Lawsuit Possible Over Whether CBA Arbitration Covers Retirees

A group of former officers with the City of Long Beach Police Department in New York sued the City, alleging that they were entitled to the retroactive raise in the contract eventually settled by binding arbitration. The retirees had been members of the Long Beach Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which was party to a collective bargaining agreement with the City that expired on June 30, 2008. An interest arbitration award…

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Janus Does Not Impact Union’s Status As ‘Exclusive Representative’

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 is the exclusive collective bargaining representative for Washington’s publicly subsidized childcare providers. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), two members of Local 925, aided by the Right To Work Foundation, filed a lawsuit alleging that their First Amendment right to expressive association was violated when Washington recognized SEIU as the exclusive bargaining representative for…

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Arbitrator’s Decision To Reinstate Officer Survives ‘Public Policy’ Argument

With increasing frequency, employers are lodging public policy challenges to arbitration decisions that reinstate terminated public safety employees. The basic argument in such cases, which often involve terminated police officers, is that there is a public policy exception to the notion that arbitration decisions are final and binding. The exception provides a basis to vacate an arbitration award that violates a “well-defined and dominant” public policy. A recent Minnesota…

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Internal Complaints About Quota System Not Constitutionally Protected

Derek Cid was a police officer for Riley County, Kansas. Cid’s sergeant sent an email to the officers he supervised providing each officer’s arrest statistics. The sergeant’s email recognized that self-initiated stops and activity had increased, but he also warned officers that they had missed their DUI “goal” of 105 for two quarters in a row. Sergeant Bortnick told officers that they needed to “buckle down” to meet the…

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Court Orders New Orleans To Promote Firefighters Passed Over For Promotion

In 2014, the New Orleans Civil Service Commission voted to adopt a package of rule amendments submitted by the City under its Great Place to Work Initiative. One of the goals of the initiative was to “eliminate the falsely objective rankings based on exams” and “allow managers to interview all the Civil Service Department certified eligible candidates and hire the best qualified one.” On April 20, 2016, Civil Service…

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Chief Ordered To Sign POST Waiver

Lieutenant Mark Wheeler has worked for the Shreveport Police Department for over 25 years. In September of 2015, Wheeler had to have surgery on his feet, requiring him to take sick leave. He expected to be back to work in six weeks, but complications from the surgery occurred. He was out on leave until March 30, 2016. Just before his leave ended in March, he was medically cleared to…

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