Arbitrator Slashes Retaliatory Discipline Imposed by Seekonk Selectmen Against Fire Fighters

April 08, 2018

Attorney Patrick Bryant persuaded a neutral arbitrator to cut eight-shift discipline in half for one Seekonk fire fighter and to reduce it to a reprimand for another fire fighter.

The Town of Seekonk Fire Chief suspended the two fire fighters for four shifts each because he alleged they were insubordinate in how they turned around a fire engine. The two fire fighters were dispatched to a fire call on the other end of Seekonk. By the time they were near the location of the fire call, they were released because another Seekonk engine arrived first. The evidence was undisputed that fire engines released from a call are allowed to make stops on the way back to the fire station. The senior fire fighter directed the engine driver to proceed along to the scene of the call, simply another 0.4 miles on the same road, to enable them to turn around. They parked the engine, removed heavy fire gear, and checked in with responding fire fighters. A supervisor directed the senior fire fighter to leave the scene. He did immediately and without challenge.

The Chief suspended both fire fighters for four shifts each, even though neither had any discipline on their record. The Union challenged the discipline, the Board of Selectmen, without explanation or justification, doubled the discipline to eight shifts.

A neutral hearing officer agreed that the discipline was excessive and reduced the suspension of the senior fire fighters to four shifts, and reduced the discipline of the junior fire fighter to a mere reprimand. He found that the junior fire fighter merely followed direction of senior fire fighter and had no confrontation with any supervisors.

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