Arbitrator Agrees with Attorney Barrault That Chelmsford Chief Wrongly Vetoed Fire Fighter's Shift Bid

May 2, 2017

The collective bargaining agreement between Town of Chelmsford and Chelmsford Firefighters Union Local 1839, IAFF, entitles fire fighters to bid on shifts and apparatus by seniority. The agreement also allows the Chief to veto any selection for "just and sufficient cause."

Here, an independent arbitrator was persuaded by Attorney Leah Barrault that unfounded allegations of misconduct were not a sufficient basis for the Chief to veto Fire Fighter A's shift bid.

In essence, the Fire Chief found that Fire Fighter A tampered with the equipment of Fire Fighter B and, as a result, vetoed Fire Fighter A's bid to work a shift adjacent to Fire Fighter B. However, the Arbitrator found that the Chief's conclusion was unsupported by anything other than speculation or the fevered paranoia of Fire Fighter B. The Chief's conclusion failed to account for establish how, given the total lack of direct or circumstantial evidence, Fire Fighter A tampered with the equipment. The Chief could not reliably blame Fire Fighter A, as opposed to every other fire fighter working at the station during the 48 hour period that the tampering allegedly occurred. The Chief's veto of Fire Fighter A's shift bid lacked "just and sufficient cause."

Pyle Rome law clerk Mark Macchi assisted with the Union's brief to the arbitrator.

The Arbitrator did agree that the Chief was justified in being concerned about the two fire fighters working adjacent shifts. However, the Chief could not solely inconvenience Fire Fighter A. As a result, he remedied the Chief's violation of the contract by allowing him to keep separating the two fire fighters from adjacent shifts. But the arbitrator directed the Chief to rotate the shift bids of the two fire fighters until the tensions were resolves.

Related Attorney: 
Leah M. Barrault