Officers’ Failure To ‘Punch In’ Does Not Negate Roll Call Pay

The Middlesex, Massachusetts Sheriff’s Office began a system of requiring officers to “punch in and out” of work at the beginning and end of their shifts. The employer issued officers identification cards which could be used for the “punch in” process.

The employer also began not paying officers the roll call pay called for by the collective bargaining agreement when they failed to punch in or out. Under the employer’s new rules, officers who forgot their time cards and consequently were unable to punch in did not receive roll call pay even though they were physically present for roll call.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance filed by the New England Police Benevolent Association challenging the failure to pay roll call pay. The Arbitrator read the collective bargaining agreement as imposing only three conditions on roll call pay: (1) Officers could not be on leave and receive the roll call pay; (2) officers could not be receiving workers’ compensation benefits; and (3) officers could not be off work for some other reason. Since the roll call pay provision in the contract imposed no other requirements, the Arbitrator concluded that the employer was prohibited from conditioning roll call pay on the punching in process.

The employer argued that it had the management right to implement rules that were necessary for “orderly and efficient operations.” However, the Arbitrator found that the specific language in the roll call pay article of the contract overrode the general language in the management rights clause.

The Arbitrator ordered the employer to grant roll call pay to officers who reported 15 minutes before the start of their regular shift without regard to whether those officers punched in using their ID cards.

Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, LAIG 6660 (Cochran, 2007).

This article appears in the February 2009 issue