Sandulli Grace and MassCOP win confirmation of arbitration award reinstating officer fired for running out of leave, and holding that FMLA benefits are a floor of rights which can be improved in negotiations

Officer Tyrone Patruno was injured off the job, and then fired when he ran out of his paid time off and his unpaid FMLA leave.  The Barre Patrol Officers’ Union, MCOP Local 340, AFL-CIO, was represented by Attorney Leigh Panettiere of Sandulli Grace, P.C.  The Arbitrator agreed with the Union’s argument and found that there was a practice of offering light duty to officers injured off the job, and further that there was no justification for the Town to refuse to Patruno’s request for extended unpaid leave to recover from his injury.

The Town appealed the arbitrator’s award, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded his powers by requiring the Town to give more than the three months of leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The court rejected the Town’s argument (as did the arbitrator) on the basis that the FMLA is a floor of benefits and the parties are free to negotiate a greater benefit in their contract.  Patruno was ordered reinstated to light duty pending a doctor’s decision that he is fit for full duty, with back pay to the date his doctor cleared him to work light duty.

Public employers cannot unilaterally impose FMLA policies, because they impact availability of paid and unpaid leave, as well as compensation and job security — all mandatory subjects of bargaining.  Based upon this rule of collective bargaining law that was reaffirmed in the Barre case, Sandulli Grace advises its clients to watch for new FMLA policies, and contact their union representative if they believe an employer has imposed a policy without bargaining.

Download the decision…

Mashpee Quinn Bill Case Update: Judge Denies Town’s Attempt To Muddy Case – Plaintiffs Will File For Summary Judgment In Their Favor

Barnstable Superior Court Justice Gary Nickerson has rejected the Town of Mashpee’s attempt to forcibly join the Mashpee police Union to the lawsuit brought by several Mashpee Police Officers who contend that the Town violated the law when it cut their Quinn Benefits. The Officers, represented by Sandulli Grace, successfully argued that the case involved a violation of the law by the Town, and that their union was not a proper party. “The Town was trying to muddy the issue in the case by seeking to join the Union as a party. We’re pleased that Judge Nickerson rejected this attempt, as we can now move forward to seek a ruling on the merits,” said Sandulli Grace Partner Bryan Decker, lead counsel on the case.

In the suit, the officers contend that the Town of Mashpee violated the Quinn Bill (found at G.L. c. 41, §108L) when it reduced Quinn payments to officers. The Town reduced the payments due to the state’s cutting of Quinn funding to municipalities. “The Quinn bill is a wage law that guarantees certain level of pay to officers who better themselves and their departments by seeking education. This is no different than if the Town sought to pay officers less than minimum wage. I certainly feel for the cities and towns that have suffered a back door local aid cut via the state’s underfunding of the Quinn program. However, that doesn’t allow those cities and towns to cut the pay of officers. Two wrongs most certainly do not make a right,” said Decker.

It should be noted that while the Union was properly found to NOT be a proper party to the suit, the plaintiffs’ union, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, is fully supporting its members in their attempt to be paid all of the wages the law guarantees to them – including their Quinn Bill wages.

Bppa Members Paid $2.23 Million In Damages For City’s Unilateral Implementation Of Flsa Pay Period Sandulli Grace Successfully Argues Case At Mass Supreme Judicial Court

After a seven year battle, the City of Boston has finally paid Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) members damages relating to the unlawful unilateral implementation of a 28 day/ 171 hour Fair Labor Standards Act pay period in 2002. In total, 1765 officers received $1,781,091.11 in damages plus $449,628.44 in statutory interest, for a total damages payment of $2,230,719.55. Because the BPPA refused to bow to the City’s change in 2002, BPPA members are the only BPD sworn personnel benefitting from the shorter pay period.

This case had its origins in the 2000 lawsuit brought by over 800 patrolmen (represented by Sandulli Grace attorneys Bryan Decker and John Becker and with the support of the BPPA) alleging violations of the FLSA due to the City’s failure to include Quinn Bill and night shift differential in the calculation of FLSA overtime. In fact, it turned out that the City wasn’t even calculating FLSA overtime, and in 2004, the officers were awarded over $750,000 in damages and attorney fees. Attempting to cut its losses, in spring 2002 the City announced that it wanted to implement a longer FLSA pay period. A longer pay period allows the employer to stretch its overtime liability, resulting in lower payments to officers. Because the issue implicated officers’ pay, the BPPA demanded to bargain. The City refused, and unilaterally implemented the change at the start of July, 2002.

The BPPA challenged that unilateral change by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission. The City contended that it did not need to bargain the change with the union, and the BPPA was the only union to challenge the change. Sandulli Grace attorneys Bryan Decker and Patrick Bryant represented the union before the LRC, which ruled in the union’s favor in 2006, finding that the decision to change the FLSA pay period was a mandatory subject of bargaining, and ordered the City to restore the traditional 7 day/40 hour pay period. Rather than comply, the City appealed the case, and the state’s Supreme Judicial Court took the appeal. Bryan Decker argued the case before the high court, and in 2009 the Court upheld the finding in the Union’s favor.

Following the SJC decision, the City finally agreed to implement the 7day / 40 hour work period. BPPA members have been receiving FLSA overtime on a weekly basis since late last summer. The City then undertook to calculate damages for the period from 2002 until 2009, which resulted in the $2.23 million dollar payout this summer.

(A longer, more detailed report on this case appears in this month’s Pax Centurion, the BPPA’s Official Newspaper).

MCOP to support Teamsters’ boycott of Dunkin Donuts

In a show of solidarity with the members of Teamsters Local 25, Sandulli Grace client Massachusetts Coalition of Police (MCOP) has joined in the boycott of Dunkin Donuts. The Teamsters organized the workers of DCP company, the largest distributor for Dunkin Donuts in the northeast, in 2009. Despite meeting three times per month since, the company has refused to agree to a fair contract for its workers. The Teamsters have therefore called for a boycott of Dunkin Donuts, and MCOP has answered the call.

As the MCOP announcement notes, “When the police needed the Teamsters in our fight against “flaggers,” they were there… It’s our turn to support the Teamsters. Please join all Mass.C.O.P. members in boycotting Dunkin Donuts until Teamsters Local 25 reaches a fair agreement.” (Click here to view the MCOP announcement).