Tag Archives: Termination

Town of Millbury and Millbury Police Association, MassCOP Local 128 – Termination of Kimberly Brothers

On July 19, 2013, Arbitrator Timothy Buckalew reinstated Millbury Police Detective Kimberly Brothers, who terminated in August 2012 for allegedly “harassing” three residents of the Town.  Two women who had formerly dated Detective Brothers’ boyfriend, and one who had recently ended her friendship with Detective Brothers, accused Detective Brothers of either following them in a cruiser, or parking near their workplaces in order to intimidate them.

The Union, represented by Attorney Leigh Panettiere of Sandulli Grace, P.C., demonstrated at the arbitration that Det. Brothers, a busy and well-respected detective who before being promoted to detective was an extremely productive patrol officer, had been assigned to official police duties that often brought her near the homes and workplaces of the accusers.  The Union was also able to present numerous instances of inconsistencies and untruths in the testimony of the three accusers, and that the accusers were all talking to each other about Det. Brothers.  Additionally, the Union demonstrated that the investigator failed to inquire about any of the inconsistencies in the stories the accusers told.

The Arbitrator rejected the allegations of harassment.  He called the Town’s investigation “hasty and inadequate.”  He found that all three of the accusers were motivated to lie, and he found Det. Brothers to be “credible and consistent.”

The Town also accused Det. Brothers of “excessive texting,” clearly in an attempt to shore up the weak harassment allegations.  The Police Department had no policy on texting.  The Town never reviewed the text records of any other officer in the department, and did not even give Det. Brothers an opportunity to defend herself against this allegation during the investigation.  Moreover, the Union presented testimony of fellow officers and the Chief of Police that Det. Brothers did not text on duty any more than other officers in the department.  The Arbitrator credited the testimony of those witnesses, and stated, “the Town cannot not show excessive texting when it has no standard from which to argue the employee deviated.”

The Arbitrator delivered the Millbury Policy Association a resounding victory in this case, ordering Det. Brothers reinstated with full back pay and restoration of all benefits, including details and overtime.  Det. Brothers returned to her Detective position on August 26, 2013.  This is the third in a series of recent victories for the Millbury Police Association.  The Arbitrator’s Award in the Kim Brothers case can be read here.


Appeals Court Upholds Duty Of Fair Representation

Following the decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court in United Steelworkers of America v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board [http://socialaw.com/slip.htm?cid=19281&sid=119], union officials have been put on notice that what they don’t know can hurt their union.

 When the City of Springfield terminated a civil service public works employee, he had the option of either appealing to the Civil Service Commission or going to arbitration through his collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  This option was spelled out in the CBA and is also part of the collective bargaining law, Chapter 150E.

The union representative explained the option to the employee and advised him that the union would handle his arbitration case but that he would need to hire his own lawyer if he wanted to go to the Civil Service Commission.  The employee nevertheless expressed a preference for challenging his discharge through civil service, rather than arbitration.  What the union representative did not know or fully understand was that civil service appeals must be filed within ten (10) business days of the termination.

 Although the union representative went ahead and prepared to file the employee’s case for arbitration, when the employee again stated he preferred the civil service route, the representative withdrew the case and did not file for arbitration.  He did not check into nor inform the employee about the 10-day filing period, which had already passed a month before.  Both the Division of Labor Relations, and now the Appeals Court have concluded that the union’s actions here constituted “inexcusable neglect” in violation of the duty of fair representation.

 While this case does extend the degree to which public sector unions in Massachusetts are held liable for knowledge of laws outside their contract, it must serve as a warning to all unions, their staff, and even elected local union leaders.  When unions collect dues from and undertake to represent employees, they are going to be required to have some degree of knowledge about the laws covering their members.

The decision in this case points out that the union representative had access to union attorneys but did not utilize that resource.  For those of you in a position of union leadership, the message is clear: If you don’t know, ask!