Friday, February 1, 2013

Court rules reinstatement of police oficer who lied violates public policy

Grievant was employed as a police officer by the town of Stratford, CT. He suffered from epileptic seizures, and experienced a seizure while on duty, striking two parked cars with his police vehicle. After his personal physician returned him to duty the town referred him to a neurologist for a determination of the conditions of return. The neurologist cleared grievant to return to work with the proviso that he be allowed to call out sick whenever he felt signs of an impending seizure. Reviewing the neurologists report, the town's hr director "discovered discrepancies" between the report and the medical information supplied to the town by grievant's personal physician. Contrary to the information obtained from his personal physician, grievant had apparently not informed the neurologist of two previous seizures, and had denied a history of alcohol "use/abuse". The town ultimately terminated grievant's employment for lying during an independent medical exam.

The union grieved the termination, and an arbitration panel reinstated grievant without back pay. The panel concluded that grievant's lying, while serious, was understandable, and concluded that the termination was excessive. The town sought to vacate the award as contrary to public policy, but the lower court disagreed, noting the limited standard of review of arbitration awards and the absence of "authority which requires dismissal of a uniformed police officer, in situations where that officer tells a deliberate untruth."

The town appealed, and the appellate court reversed, ordering the case remanded with direction to grant the town's motion to vacate. The court first concluded that prior case law had concluded that "there is a clear public policy in Connecticut ... that it is against public policy for a police officer to lie." Turning to the facts as found by the arbitration panel, the court then concluded that the award was contrary to that policy, noting:

 Here, the union concedes that [Grievant] intentionally lied during a medical examination into the conditions that would allow him safely to return to work and to perform his duties as a police officer. The arbitration panel’s determination to reinstate [him] in spite of this conduct runs contrary to the well-defined public policy against intentional dishonesty by police officers in connection with their employment. ... Accordingly, the award cannot stand.

The court's decision (Town of Stratford v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal, Employees, Council 15, Local 407)  can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment