Firefighter Loses Sexual Harassment Claim But Can Proceed With Racial Harassment Lawsuit

Danielle Cortes-Devito was the only African-American female who was employed as a paramedic with the Village of Stone Park, Illinois Fire Department. In a lawsuit she subsequently filed, Cortes-Devito alleged that her coworkers repeatedly interfered with her work and humiliated her by engaging in unwelcome and offensive conduct. Specifically, Cortes-Devito alleged that her coworkers made offensive jokes and comments that were racially insensitive in and outside of her presence….

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Corrections Officer Loses Case When She Fails To Follow Procedure For Reporting Sexual Harassment Claims

Linda Roebuck sued her employer, the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, alleging that she was the victim of sexual harassment perpetrated by her supervisor, Larry Corbett. When the jury found the Department not liable for Corbett’s conduct, Roebuck appealed. Many sexual harassment cases today are covered by the standards in two Supreme Court decisions, Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998) and Burlington Industries, Inc….

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No Constitutional Right To Health Insurance

The Town of La Plata, Maryland provides health insurance to its employees. In 1996, the Town offered employees an option: If employees who were able to obtain health insurance coverage elsewhere opted out of the Town’s health insurance plan, the Town would make a contribution to the deferred compensation 401(k) accounts of the employees who opted out. The opt-out arrangement worked well for a number of years, with the…

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Police Chief Wins Legal Battle With Town

Robert Kells is the Police Chief of the Town of Lincoln, Rhode Island. The employment agreement between Kells and the Town provided for a three-year contract beginning December 1, 2002, and continuing through November 30, 2005. The agreement also provided that “in accordance with Section 9-1 of the Charter, the Chief’s appointment is for an indefinite term and subject to removal in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.”…

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Vote On Pension Board Protected By First Amendment

Frank Hauenschild has served in the Harvey, Illinois Fire Department for 27 years. During the last 12 years of his employment, he held the rank of captain and served as a shift commander. As a shift commander, Hauenschild had a consistent shift of 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. This schedule allowed him to obtain a law degree and thereafter to become a practicing attorney…

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Employees Have Tough Road In Challenging Promotional Decisions

By Mark Crabtree A number of recent cases reaffirm the general proposition that suing to obtain a promotion can be an uphill battle for the employee who feels slighted as a result of a supervisor’s decision not to promote. Courts are leery to intervene in an area in which management is still accorded substantial discretion to promote or not promote employees. For example, in State ex rel. Killingsworth v….

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Failure To Follow State Law Not Necessarily A Federal Due Process Violation

An Illinois state law requires that counties provide continued group insurance coverage for retirees. The law also requires that the insurance must be provided “at the same premium rate” for non-retired deputies. On January 1, 2000, the Winnebago County, Illinois Board of Commissioners required that retired deputies pay higher premiums than active deputies pay for active participation in health plans. In addition, as of 2001, retired deputies over the…

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Officer’s Ability To Challenge Firing On “Public Policy” Grounds Very Limited

Most police officers and firefighters in the country are covered by either the terms of collective bargaining agreements or civil service laws that provide for an appeal system if the employee believes discipline has been unfairly imposed. In the absence of collective bargaining or civil service, many employees are considered “at will,” in the sense that they can be hired or fired for any reason or no reason at…

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City Not Liable For Discontinuance Of Court Officer Position

The City of Madison Heights, Michigan, is located in Oakland County. The City is required by Michigan state law to fund a district court system; however, the district court is a separate legal entity from the City, and is under the ultimate supervision of the judicial branch of government. For many years, the City provided security for prisoners in the courthouse through overtime assignments to its officers. When the…

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What Is The Remedy For Improperly Denied Overtime?

The collective bargaining agreement between Warren County, Ohio and the Warren County Deputy Sheriff’s Benevolent Association calls for overtime to be assigned to the officer signing up for the slot who has the least amount of accumulated overtime hours in the year. When Officer Mark Hoffman signed up for an overtime job on March 22, 2004, he qualified as having the least seniority among those desiring to do the…

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Officer Loses Shift Differential When On Job-Related Injury Leave

A police officer with Darby Township, Pennsylvania went on “injured on duty” status in March 2003. When the Township refused to include the night differential he formerly received in his injured on duty pay, the officer’s labor organization, Lodge 27 of the Fraternal Order of Police, challenged the Township’s decision in arbitration. An arbitrator upheld the Township’s arguments. The Arbitrator pointed to language in the collective bargaining agreement limiting…

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Reinstated Firefighter Entitled To Partial Payment For Overtime Missed During Period Of Discharge

When the City of Barberton, Ohio terminated a firefighter, the firefighter’s labor organization, Local 329 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, challenged the termination in arbitration. The Arbitrator ordered the reinstatement of the firefighter with “back pay, including lost overtime and acting pay opportunities from February 3, 2004 to the date of his reinstatement.” Subsequently, the City and Local 329 were unable to agree on how much overtime…

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Firefighters Win Three-Person Engine Grievance

The collective bargaining agreement between the Beaumont Professional Firefighters, Local 399 and the City of Beaumont, Texas contains a generalized safety clause requiring the employer to maintain a safe working environment. When the City implemented a new standard allowing fire engines to remain in service with two-person crews while a third person manned an ambulance, Local 399 challenged the City’s decision through the arbitration process. An arbitrator upheld the…

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Employer Not Allowed To Prorate Vacation Based On Workers’ Compensation Leave

When two corrections officers for the Cayuga County, New York Sheriff’s Department went off on workers’ compensation illnesses, the County prorated their vacation accrual based upon the time the officers were off the payroll while on workers’ compensation leave. The proration produced a grievance, which was eventually referred to an arbitrator. The Arbitrator granted the grievance, concluding that there was “no question that an employee on workers’ compensation leave…

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SLAPP Law Bars Firefighter’s Lawsuit

Massachusetts is one of many states that has adopted the commonly referred to anti-SLAPP laws. SLAPP is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” The notion behind the anti-SLAPP laws is to protect citizens from lawsuits designed to chill their constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. SLAPP suits have been characterized as “generally meritless suits brought by large private interests to deter common citizens…

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No Public Policy Prevents Reinstatement Of Officer Convicted Of Misdemeanor

Martin Stumpf, a police officer with the City of Highland Park, Illinois, was found guilty of one count of criminal trespass to a vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor, after an off-duty encounter with another motorist. The City subsequently terminated Stumpf because of his conviction. Stumpf’s labor organization, Local 714 of the Teamster Union, challenged Stumpf’s termination in arbitration. An arbitrator ruled that, based on Stumpf’s long and positive work…

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Reserve Officer’s Heart Attack During Physical Fitness Tests For Permanent Appointment May Be Job-Related

Kevin Standring was a reserve police officer for the Town of Skowhegan, Maine. In July 2002, a full-time patrol officer position became available. Standring and two other reserves applied for promotion to the full-time position. A physical agility test was a required part of the application process. Standring and the two other reserves participated in the test in August 2002. During the course of the test, Standring suffered a…

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No Privacy Right Protects Against Disclosure Of Income Of Police Officers Earning High Wages

Reporters from two newspapers published by Contra Costa Newspapers, Inc. petitioned the City of Oakland under the California Public Records Act for records indicating the name, job title, and gross salaries of all City employees who earned at least $100,000 in fiscal year 2003-2004. The City refused to identify individuals with such earnings, relying on a provision of the California Government Code that would exempt personnel files from disclosure…

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Court Strikes Down Florida Internal Affairs Privacy Law

Dennis Cooper is the publisher and editor of Key West The Newspaper, a free weekly newspaper that is distributed to several hundred locations in Key West, Florida. In a series of articles published by the newspaper in May and June of 2001, Cooper reported that Robert Christensen, an internal affairs investigator with the Key West Police Department, failed to investigate a complaint filed with the Florida Department of Law…

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City Can Be Civilly Liable For Garrity Violation By County Prosecutor

Jeffrey McKinley was a police officer for the City of Mansfield, Ohio Police Department. In late February 2000, the City’s police chief directed an investigation into officers’ misuse of scanners. The Chief launched the investigation after hearing several reports of officers using scanners to eavesdrop on citizens’ phone calls. The investigation eventually became known as “Scannergate.” Lieutenant Detective Dale Fortney headed up the investigation. Fortney questioned McKinley on two…

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Court Finds That “A Promise Is A Promise” In Striking Down Ordinance Reducing Retirement Benefits

The City of Cranston, Rhode Island collectively bargains with Local 301 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and Local 1363 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Both the City’s police and fire contracts contain provisions over pension benefits. In addition to the contracts, the City has codified in ordinances the pension benefits to be granted officers upon their retirement. Fiscal instability in the City’s pension plans began…

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State Trooper Cannot Sue Department Of Transportation For On-The-Job Injuries

Virtually all workers’ compensation statutes have “exclusivity” provisions, sometimes referred to as “workers’ compensation bars.” These provisions bar employees from bringing lawsuits against their employers for on-the-job injuries, and limit employees to the benefits available under workers’ compensation systems. Exclusivity provisions, which favor employers, are generally thought to be a trade-off for the fact that workers’ compensation laws do not require employees to prove an employer’s fault or negligence…

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Forty Years Later, Officer Recovers Wages Withheld From Paycheck

Martin Rauscher worked as a police officer for the Lincoln, Nebraska Police Department during two separate time periods. His initial employment began in April 1962 and continued until March 31, 1963, when he terminated his employment. He rejoined the Department in late summer 1965 and retired in 2001. When he retired, Rauscher filed a wage claim against the City. Rauscher explained that upon rejoining the City’s police force on…

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Court Reinstates Arbitrator’s Opinion On Purchase Of Military Credits

In 1989, the City of Pawtucket, Rhode Island and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) added a clause to their collective bargaining agreement entitled “Armed Service and Municipal Service Credit.” The clause allowed the purchase of up to four years of activity military service for the purposes of accumulating retirement credits. The clause provided that “the cost to purchase said retirement credits shall be 10% of the employee’s first…

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Reversing State Labor Board, New York Court Finds No Right To Union Representation In Criminal Interviews

The Rochester Police Locust Club is the labor organization for the City of Rochester, New York’s police officers. The Club filed two improper employer practice charges against the City arising from two unrelated criminal investigations that were instituted after officers discharged their weapons in the course of their duties. The Club alleged that the City improperly prohibited the officers from consulting with their Club representatives prior to being interviewed…

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