A second Las Vegas firefighter, a Battalion Chief, has prevailed in an arbitration over her termination for her claimed involvement with sick leave abuse. Grievant was terminated after an audit found evidence suggesting that department employees had preplanned sick leave to supplement vacation. Grievant was accused of preplanning her own sick leave, her involvement in scheduling the preplanned sick leave of another employee, and the preparation of a set of rules for battalion chiefs which penalized employees for not using vacation time and thus denying overtime opportunities to the other battalion chiefs. A similar dispute was addressed by Arbitrator Michael Rappaport, discussed here and here.
Without discussing the standard of proof required, Arbitrator Frank Silver reversed the termination and reduced the discipline to a written warning. While finding that the City had established a basis for its suspicions of abuse, he concluded that (with one exception) it had not met its burden of proving that Grievant had engaged in the misconduct alleged. The City was not able to rebut Grievant’s claim that her own “preplanned” overtime was based on a reasonable expectation based on her medical history and had been approved by the former Fire Chief. Concerning the approval of the retiring employee’s sick leave, Grievant testified that she was serving as a scheduler and had no authority to approve or disapprove overtime. She claimed she did raise the issue with her superiors and was informed that they had approved the sick leave. Finally, on the issue of the rules, the evidence established that they were established in a meeting of all battalion chiefs, and Grievant was simply the scribe who reduced the joint agreement to writing. While finding the rules inappropriate, the arbitrator concluded that Grievant was disciplined more severely than the other battalion chiefs involved.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reports on the case Second firefighter reinstated with pay in sick leave case and links to Arbitrator Silver’s award here.