Arbitrator Agrees with Attorney Patrick Bryant that Boston Police Commissioner Violated Union Contract by Blanket Prohibition on Paid Leave During 2020 Election Week

June 06, 2022

As with any employees represented by a Union, Boston Police superior officers negotiated various paid leave benefits, such as sick leave, vacation leave and personal leave. The Boston Police Commissioner routinely forces police officers to work when not scheduled, cancels scheduled days off, and attempts to limit their use of paid leave. The schedule of police officers can be subject to the whims of the Police Commissioner, without regard for the need or desire of police officers for adequate time to relax, rest or recreate. The Commissioner sometimes couples cancellation of time off with bans on working outside jobs -- a form of uncompensated on-call duty. After being subject to unprecedented amounts of forced overtime in 2020, an arbitrator finally agreed that the Commissioner cannot simply issue blanket prohibitions on paid leave, such as vacation days and personal leave. 

The Boston Police Commissioner used the potential for unrest and lawlessness during 2020 Election Week to engage in his own disregard for laws and agreements. The Commissioner unilaterally declared a 10-day period around November 2020 election off limits for using discretionary leave. At the same time, the Commissioner canceled days off and mandated police officers be available to work. These memos were issued without regard for the desire of police supervisors to use earned time off, to spend time with family members, or simply to take a break from stressful work. The Commissioner's edict represented the first time that personal leave, regarded as the valuable discretionary leave because officers can use it for emergencies.

The Arbitrator agreed that paid the Commissioner's unilateral ban, without any exceptions, violated the CBA.

"The Commissioner’s obligation to the officers is to fulfill the contractual requirements whether it be for vacation time or discretionary time off. The outright ban on discretionary time off nearly a month in advance of the Election with no opportunity to request consideration and with little evidence of threat of harm to the public was unduly restrictive and violated the contract."




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