All posts by Sandulli Grace Staff

Court Decision Reinstating Boston Police Officer Wins Sandulli Grace Press Coverage

Court Decision Reinstating Boston Police Officer Wins Sandulli Grace Press Coverage
The case involved the firing of veteran Boston police officer and BPPA member David Williams for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest. The arbitrator found that Williams had not used excessive force and had acted in compliance with the Police Department’s rules and policies in arresting a belligerent intoxicated citizen in the North End of Boston on the night before St. Patrick’s Day. Specifically, the arbitrator rejected the City’s claim that Williams had used a chokehold on the arrestee.

The City of Boston appealed the arbitrator’s ruling to the Superior Court, arguing that the Boston Police Commissioner had unfettered power under state law to determine when an officer had used excessive force and that arbitrators did not have the power to overturn his disciplinary which upheld the award. Judge Dennis J. Curran in the Superior Court threw out the City’s claims. Instead, the judge agreed with the BPPA and its attorneys that disciplinary actions and the factual underpinnings thereof are subject to review through the grievance and arbitration procedures that the City and the BPPA have collectively bargained. In particular, the findings of a neutral arbitrator selected by the parties on matters of fact, such as whether or not Williams used a chokehold, are sacrosanct, and may not be overturned by a reviewing court.

Judge Curran issued his decision in City of Boston v. BPPA on June 29, 2015. The Boston Globe ran the story on the front page of the Metro section on July 22, 2015 with a picture of David Williams and a quote from Attorney Becker. You can find the link here.
Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly ran a front-page article on the case in its July 27, 2015 edition in which Attorney Becker was quoted extensively. The link is here.

One might speculate that the media attention to the Williams case might stem from the chokehold allegation – even though the arbitrator found otherwise – given the press coverage of incidents in New York and elsewhere. Some commentators raised concerns about those incidents because the police officers involved were white and the people they arrested were black. In this case, interestingly, the press did not draw attention to the fact that Williams is black and the person he arrested is white.

Deflategate From A Labor Law Perspective: Sandulli Grace Attorney Nick Pollard In Boston Globe And On WRKO Radio

Sandulli Grace Attorney Nick Pollard was prominently quoted in the August 1st Boston Sunday Globe. Nick was interviewed for a front-page article on New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal of the suspension imposed on him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady was suspended by the Commissioner for four games after the NFL found that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “at least generally aware” that game balls were deflated during last year’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Nick highlighted the important legal issues surrounding Brady’s appeal and opined that while Brady’s case is fairly strong, he still faces an uphill battle.

Continuing his media tour, Nick appeared on 680AM WRKO’s Morning Show where he assessed Brady’s chances. He explained that while there were a number of procedural flaws in the NFL’s handling of Brady’s suspension, the award of an arbitrator interpreting a collective bargaining agreement entitled to a high degree of deference by federal judges. Nick explained how fundamental tenets of labor law such as “the law of the shop” and the requirement of notice come into play in the unique disciplinary system created by the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Players’ Association. Links to the article and the interview can be found below. All and all, Nick did a fine job of explaining the Deflategate controversy from a legal perspective, especially for a Jets fan.

Appeals Court Affirms Decision of Superior Court Upholding Arbitrator’s Decision Overturning Suspension of Police Officer

Ever feel like you don’t quite get it? Where something seems so simple, but maybe, just maybe, there’s something you’re missing? Like, in the case of the Waltham Police Contract where it says that a decision of an arbitrator will be “final and binding,” doesn’t that mean that it should be, well, final? Or, binding? Well, unfortunately the City seems to have different definitions for that word, as it continues to challenge the November 2012 decision of Arbitrator Michael Stutz overturning the fifteen day suspension of Officer Paul Tracey. It was a straightforward decision, the arbitrator overturned a suspension finding that the alleged victim was no believable. Couldn’t have been more run of the mill. Unfortunately, the City appealed in true “throw everything at the wall and see if something sticks” fashion.

Back on March 4, 2014, I blogged about how Superior Court Judge S. Jane Haggerty summarily upheld the decision, rejecting all of the City’s arguments (that blog entry is here).

Surprisingly, the City was not done, and appealed Judge Haggerty’s decision to the Appeals Court. Last week, in a summary decision a panel of Appeals Court justices upheld the Superior Court upholding the Arbitrator (you can read the decision here). Similar to the Superior Court, the Panel rejected all of the City’s myriad arguments, concluding “we discern no error in the Superior Court judge’s reasoned decision and conclusions of law in denying the city’s motion for summary judgement.”

The City could still ask the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to consider the case (the SJC could decline to do so). On behalf of the Waltham Police Union, Officer Tracey, the taxpayers of Waltham (who continue to foot the bill for the absurd appeals), myself, and good people everywhere who understand what “final and binding” means, here’s hoping the City decides to simply comply with the award instead.

Download theTracey appeals court decision

MassCOP Wins Significant 111f Injury Recurrence Arbitration

On January 14, 2015, arbitrator Richard Boulanger issued an important injury leave award in favor of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police and its affiliate, the Ipswich Police Association, Local 310.  The arbitrator granted Ipswich Police Officer Aaron Woodworth injury leave for a three month period in 2014 when Officer Woodworth was out of work recovering from Continue reading

NLRB Uses Dramatic and Novel Penalties to Punish a Flagrant Repeat Offender Employer

In late October, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a groundbreaking decision in the long-running dispute between the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  In HTH Corporation, Pacific Beach, the NLRB took a new approach to enforcement and put other scofflaw employers on notice that their continued Continue reading

New Massachusetts Sick Time Law Explained

As you know, on November 4, 2014 Massachusetts voters approved ballot question 4 which enacts a new section of MGL c. 149  section 148C and provides for Massachusetts employees to earn and use 40 hours of sick leave in a calendar year.

This new law is effective July 1, 2015.  The law applies to employees of private and public entities with eleven or more employees.  However,  employees employed by cities and towns shall not be considered employees for purposes of this law until this law is accepted by vote of the city or town as a local option or by appropriation as provided for in Article CXV of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth.  A local option law for a city must be voted on by the city council in accordance with its charter and in the case of a town by town meeting or town council.

Although most unionized employees already earn sick leave, some benefits of the new law that may not already exist are as follows:

  1. Any and all of the 40 hours of sick leave can be used to care for an employee’s child, spouse, parent or parent of spouse.
  2. The sick leave can be used for both physical and mental illness.
  3. The sick leave can be used for routine medical appointments for the employee or family members.
  4. The sick leave can be used for time needed to address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence.
  5.  Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year.
  6. An employer may only require medical certification for use of sick time when an earned sick time period covers more than  24 consecutively scheduled work hours and such certification cannot  require that the documentation explain the nature of the illness or the details of the domestic violence.
  7.  It is unlawful for the employer to use the taking of earned sick time as a negative factor in any employment action such as evaluation, promotion, disciplinary action or termination or to otherwise discipline an employee for using sick time.

This new law provides minimum benefits and employers can adopt or retain earned sick time policies that are more beneficial than the requirements of this Law.  Sick leave also continues to be subject to collective bargaining.  However, any sick time employment benefit program or plan cannot provide any lesser sick time rights than the rights established under this law.

A Word on the Election

Polls open tomorrow to decide who will be the next Governor of Massachusetts.  This year we have a hotly contested race.  We are writing to let you know that we’re voting for Martha Coakley for Governor – and we think you should too!  Attorney General Coakley has been a public servant since 1986.  Her husband is a retired Cambridge Police Officer.  She understands the challenges facing working people and people fighting to survive in the public sector.  The fact that she is a Democrat isn’t enough to recommend her, but her track record advocating for the people of Massachusetts is.  When it comes to your pension and rights at work, I believe Attorney General Coakley will be unbiased and deliberate.

In contrast, Charlie Baker made millions of dollars at Harvard Pilgrim.  In the process, he outsourced jobs from Massachusetts and increased the cost of your healthcare.  Mr. Baker picked our pockets to succeed in business while shipping jobs out.  If given the keys to the Commonwealth he will make the same “tough choices” to eviscerate your pension and underfund the state agencies that protect our rights.

Vote Coakley!

Jamie & Jenni

Beware of Illegal Parity Health Insurance Proposals by Employers

In a twist on illegal wage parity proposals, the Department of Labor Relations (DLR) issued Complaints of Prohibited Practice against the Boston Public Health Commission (Commission) for proposing and insisting upon an unlawful health insurance parity clause. (Read the full text of the DLR Complaint dated March 26, 2014 HERE). The Charging Party was the Boston Emergency Medical Services, a division of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (Union) which represents Boston EMTs and Paramedics. The Union was bargaining over its contract which expired on June 30, 2011 where health insurance was a key topic in protracted negotiations with the Commission. The Commission is, by statute, independent from the City of Boston and a separate employer under Chapter 150E. After the parity complaints were issued, the DLR also ruled that the Commission failed to bargain in good faith with the Union when it changed the employees’ health insurance plan design and unilaterally increased their co-payments in violation of Section  10(a)(5)  of Chapter 150E. (Read the full text of the DLR Hearing Officer’s Decision and Order dated June 25, 2014 HERE). The BEMS-BPPA was represented in negotiations and litigation by Sandulli Grace Attorneys Ken Grace and Jenni Smith.

As we all know, employee health insurance costs are constantly changing to the point where any pay raise we may bargain can be quickly cancelled by increases in health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments. That is why it is so important for unions to fully exercise their bargaining rights over possible changes in health insurance plans, carriers, providers, benefits, coverages, premiums, premium contributions, co-payments and prescription co-payments. In this case, the Commission sought to have all of these health insurance matters be decided by another employer and another union.

The proposal at controversy stated that “the Union hereby agrees that any decision of the City of Boston to make [health insurance] changes, and the impact of those decisions will not require bargaining between the parties provided that such changes are implemented for the City of Boston’s Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association bargaining unit or successor.” The proposal, which ties the health insurance of BEMS to the collective bargaining future of the BPPA, constitutes a parity clause. The proposal, therefore, is an illegal restriction on the ability of both the BEMS and the BPPA to effectively represent the interests of their union members. For the BPPA, the proposed parity clause places illegitimate pressure upon their collective bargaining process, because they would be forced to take into account an additional group of employees whose interests and concerns do not mirror the sentiments of their immediate union members. In turn, the BEMS would be barred from representing the interests and well-being of its members on a mandatory subject of bargaining- – health insurance.

Over the last few months, the Union finally reached a collective bargaining agreement with the Commission and I’m happy to report that the contract does not include the illegal parity provision that was the subject of the DLR’s Complaints last March. The Commission was forced to withdraw its proposal because of mounting legal pressure. The contract settlement contained some small adjustments in health insurance co-payments and premium contributions consistent with those applicable to City of Boston employees, but the changes were not made retroactive. This amounted to considerable savings to BEMS employees over more than a three year period when premiums were lowered on the assumption of the higher co-payments. It was one of those rare instances where the foot dragging by an employer in delaying a contract settlement actually benefited the employees. Just as significant, however, was the Union’s willingness to take on the Commission through legal action and bargaining strategy in order to protect its important right to negotiate over all matters of health insurance in the future.