Firefighters Fail To Establish Past Practice Of Higher Leave Cash-Out Rate

When firefighters for the Town of Lincoln, Rhode Island retire, they are entitled to a payout for accrued sick leave and vacation time. The contract phrases the accrual in terms of “days.”

A dispute arose between the firefighters and the Town as to whether a “day” should be the employee’s normal 12-hour workday or, as the Town contended, an 8.4-hour day used by the Town as the standard for all employees.

In support of its position, Local 3023 of the International Association of Fire Fighters pointed to memoranda of agreement signed by the parties in 2001 where two retirees had been paid for accrued leave at the rate of 12 hours per day. The Town rejoined that Town Administrator who signed the memoranda of agreement was currently under indictment, did not consult the Finance Department about the payout rate, and erroneously set the rate at 12 hours per day.

The Arbitrator sided with the Town. The Arbitrator ruled that Local 3023 had failed to establish a consistent past practice, pointing out that two firefighters who had retired since 2001 had received payouts at the 8.4-hour rate.

Noting that all payouts prior to 2001 had been at the 8.4-hour rate, the Arbitrator held that the two exceptions created by the memoranda of understanding were not sufficient to alter the Town’s past practice of using the 8.4-hour conversion rate.

Town of Lincoln and Lincoln Rescue and Firefighters, Local 3023, LAIG 6404 (Croasdale, 2006).

This article appears in the January 2007 issue