State Labor Agency Issues Complaint Against Oak Bluffs, Alleging Multiple Counts of Illegal Retaliation and Intimidation. Town Spends $50K of Taxpayer Funds to Defend Allegedly Unlawful Behavior.

November 29, 2017

The dedicated firefighters/paramedics of the Town of Oak Bluffs are one step closer to justice, after a Department of Labor Relations investigator today issued an 11-count complaint against the Town. The complaint stems almost exclusively from the alleged tyrannical behavior of Fire Chief John Rose. Attorneys James Hykel and Patrick Bryant have represented the IAFF Local throughout this process. Meanwhile, the Town has spent about $50,000 of taxpayer monies to defend its Chief.

Ever since Oak Bluffs fire fighters publicly exercised their right to join the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM), they allege that they have been subject to a campaign of terror and intimidation by Chief Rose. The 11-count complaint, issued after two full days of hearing, vindicates the employees' claims about the Chief's mistreatment and mismanagement.

The Complaint sets forth 11 separate violations of the Law by Rose and the Town:

1. Refusing to let an employee, after being cleared to return to work, work until he complied with recommendations of a Town-appointed physician.

2. Refusing to provide information requested by the Union about the above employee.

3. Unilaterally implementing a new pay policy that reduced employee earnings.

4. Unilaterally implementing a new break policy and threatening to discipline supervisors for any violations of break policy by employees.

5. Unilaterally and discriminatorily ending longstanding work shuttles.

6. Publicly boasting that the Union will "never step foot in the Department."

7. Refusing to provide information about the Chief's installation of security cameras.

8. Threatening to enforce a residency requirement subsequent to the Union organizing.

9. Unilaterally reassigning employee lockers without negotiating first with the Union.

10. Unilaterally installing surveillance cameras in the fire station subsequent to Union organizing and without negotiating with the Union.

11. Refusing an employee's request for union representation during an investigatory interview.

Many of these counts allege violations of more than one section of the public sector collective bargaining law.

The issuance of this Complaint means the Town will face a public hearing to determine whether it engaged in the above actions and, if so, whether those actions violated the law.

In response to a public records request, the Union has learned that the Town has spent nearly $50,000 in less than five months on legal fees to defend behavior that a state investigator agrees likely violates the law.

The investigator also dismissed a few other allegations by the Union. The Union is weighing whether to exercise its right to request that the oversight board, the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, amend the complaint to include those charges.

Related Attorney: 
James Hykel
Related Attorney: 
Patrick N. Bryant