Arbitrator Chastises Medford Fire Chief For Make-Up Assignments In Response to Sick Leave

October 18, 2017

In a case brought by the Medford Fire Fighters Union, Local 1032, an arbitrator found that the Fire Chief engages in discipline without just cause when he assigns Firefighters to three make-up shifts in Fire Alarm when they call in sick for just one tour. Pyle Rome attorney Leah Barrault prepared the case, and her partner Al Gordon O'Connell represented the Union at arbitration.

In Medford, the eight most junior Firefighters are typically assigned on rotation into Fire Alarm two or three times per year for two-week tours that result in nine shifts per rotation. The assignments can last for many years depending on how many new hires come in to replace the most junior eight members. In recent years, whenever a Firefighter on a Fire Alarm shift has called in sick, the Chief would require that Firefighter to work three make-up shifts without even questioning whether the Firefighter truly ill. The only excuse that the Chief offered for these make-up shifts was that they were required training shifts - even though no actual training occurred on these shifts.

After one Firefighter - who had been in the rotation for nearly eight years - was forced to endure three make-up shifts for a single sick call, the Union filed a grievance and brought the matter to arbitration. The arbitrator handily rejected the Chief's "training" excuse and agreed with the Union that the make-up shifts constitute discipline without just cause in violation of the parties' collective bargaining agreement.

Related Attorney: 
Alfred Gordon O'Connell
Related Attorney: 
Leah M. Barrault