Sandulli Grace, PC Wins Meal Allowance Arbitration For MBTA Union

A neutral arbitrator upheld the grievance regarding meal allowance compensation filed by the Alliance of MBTA Unions (decision available below), which represents certain foremen and supervisors in the quasi-public transit agency. In this case, the parties negotiated a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that entitles employees to a $4 meal allowance benefit when they work overtime at least 3 hours before or after a regular shift or when they are “required to work on a day on which the employee was not scheduled to work.” Despite paying the meal allowance on days off nearly 470 times over a three-year period, representing about 85% of the times they were due, the MBTA suddenly stopped paying it.

The MBTA claimed the contract language “required to work” meant that employees only were entitled to get the meal allowance when they worked compulsory overtime. The Arbitrator noted that mandatory overtime does not exist within the particular department of the Authority and noted that the MBTA previously paid the fee when employees or the Union complained about non-payment. In the end, the Arbitrator interpreted the contract in light of this consistent practice, upheld the grievance and ordered the MBTA to pay the meal allowance as far back as December 2004. The case is a good example of applying past practice to overcome language that could be construed as contrary to that practice.

Here’s a copy of the Hoban Meal Allowance Arbitration Award.

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