Attorney Barrault Wins Benefits for Wakefield Firefighters Local 1478 and Military Veteran

March 26, 2019

A neutral arbitrator has agreed with the Wakefield Firefighters Association, Local 1478, IAFF, and their attorney Leah Barrault, that the Town of Wakefield improperly cut benefits for a firefighter because he served his country as an Army reservist deployed to Iraq.

Usually, union contracts provide that employees earn paid leave benefits, such as personal, sick and vacation leave, throughout the year. (Some contracts provide that benefits are received once a year, while others provide such benefits on a monthly basis). Employees generally continue to earn these benefits even if they are on some form of excused leave, whether injury leave or military leave, for all or part of the year, unless the contract or past practice specifies otherwise.

Wakefield firefighters on a military deployment are entitled to the difference between their military pay and their firefighter pay.
The Wakefield contract negotiated by Local 1478 entitles firefighters to earn personal, sick and vacation leave on an annual basis, and contains no language that they stop earning such benefits while on military leave.

Nonetheless, the Town Wakefield effectively punished a firefighter for being deployed to Iraq by cutting his paid leave he earned during this time period. The Town even argued that it had a management right to cut benefits to the reservist and that the arbitrator had no jurisdiction or authority to enforce the contract.

Thankfully, the Arbitrator rejected all the Town's defenses. He found that the Wakefield firefighter continued to be an employee of the Town during his deployment and he therefore was entitled to earn full amount of personal, sick and vacation leave under the contract.