Tag Archives: Arbitrator

Masscop Member Wins Extra Detail Opportunities After Arbitrator Finds Contract Violation

The Town of Bellingham must provide a police officer who was out on administrative leave with additional paid detail opportunities after an arbitrator found that the Police Department’s practice of giving “refusals” to such officers violated the collective bargaining agreement between the Town and the police union, Local 216 of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. The union was represented by Attorney John M. Becker of Sandulli Grace, P.C.

The issue arose when the Police Chief decided to place the officer on administrative leave so he could send him for a fitness-for-duty examination. During the month-long leave period, the Department, according to a longstanding practice, recorded the officer as having refused every detail opportunity that he would have been offered had he been working. Such refusals placed the officer much lower on the list when he did return.

The Department had adopted this practice for officers on sick, injury and administrative leave to keep officers who were out for long periods from returning at the top of the detail list. The problem, the Union argued (and Arbitrator John Cochran agreed in an August 28, 2012 award), was that the clear language of the collective bargaining agreement stated that refusals were only appropriate when an officer was actually available to take the work and voluntarily refused. Thus, the practice of the Department violated the unambiguous language of the contract, and in such cases, the arbitrator ruled, the contract, not the practice, prevails. As a remedy, Arbitrator Cochran ordered the Department to give the officer another detail opportunity for each refusal he received.

In another portion of the case, the Town had argued that the grievance was not arbitrable because the Union had not filed for arbitration until 10 months after the contract violation. In this case, the contract language required the Union to give notice of intent to arbitrate within 14 days but had no deadline for actually filing for arbitration. Arbitrator Cochran agreed with an earlier arbitrator, who ruled that despite the absence of a strict time limit, the Union must file for arbitration within a “reasonable time” unless it had a good excuse for the delay. In this case, Arbitrator Cochran found that 10 months was unreasonable “on its face” but that the Union had a legitimate reason for waiting to file. The Union had also filed an unfair labor practice at the state Department of Labor Relations in relation to the same underlying facts as the grievance, and a win at the DLR would have given the officer the remedy he was looking for. But when the DLR dismissed a portion of the case, the Union realized it would have to go forward with the grievance in order for the officer to be made whole. Based on this explanation, Arbitrator let the grievance go forward on the merits and ultimately ruled in the Union’s favor on the detail refusal issue.

Greater Lowell Regional Teachers Organization And Greater Lowell Technical School Committee

Arbitrator rules that a teacher without professional teacher status is entitled to procedural protections under the collective bargaining agreement before a School Committee can non-renew the teacher’s appointment.

In this case, the teacher was notified of the intention to non-renew her appointment on May 26, 2009 and then dismissed on June 7, 2009. The arbitrator found that the teacher was denied reappointment as a consequence of the evaluation process and that the procedures followed in that evaluation process violated the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. The collective bargaining agreement required that the information that formed the basis for the recommendation to non-renew a teacher must be properly documented before the notice of intent to non-renew. The arbitrator also specifically relied on DESE regulations which provide that a teacher must be given “a reasonable amount of time… to implement the recommendations for improvement of performance and to meet performance standards.” In this case the arbitrator found that the teacher’s supervisor failed to give the teacher anything in writing to establish any deadlines. The arbitrator noted that “Experience demonstrates that parties to a conversation often draw different impressions about the substance and tenor of the discussion. And, consequently, it is generally a good practice to follow-up important conversations with confirmatory letters or memoranda.”

Therefore, the School Department’s failure to document the teacher’s claimed deficiencies and give the teacher proper written notice of those alleged deficiencies along with an opportunity to correct the issues violated the collective bargaining agreement.

The teacher was therefore ordered to be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.