Sunday, October 5, 2014

Terminating a past practice

Arbitrator Paul Glendon has found that the City of Toledo breached its agreement with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association when it unilaterally prohibited officers from engaging in outside employment at any establishment primarily in the business of dispensing alcohol.

The parties' agreement prohibits any employee of the City from accepting employment that is adverse to or in conflict with the employee's employment. Notwithstanding this language, and for in excess of thirty years, officers had been allowed to work outside of (e.g. in parking lots, streets, etc).establishments primarily engaged in dispensing alcohol. The parties referred to this as "projecting." The City, without objection from the Union, did prohibit projecting at  businesses that were the subject of an investigation or prosecution for criminal or liquor license violations.  In March of 2014, however, the Chief issued a Notice prohibiting all such employment. The City maintained the Chief was simply exercising a management right in deciding that any outside employment at such an establishment was adverse to and in conflict with police employment.

In addressing the Union's grievance, Arbitrator Glendon concluded that the ability of officers to work outside of establishments primarily in the business of dispensing alcohol was an established past practice that the City could not unilaterally alter during the contract term. He agreed with the Union that the thirty year practice "met the usual criteria of duration, consistency and mutuality to be a binding past practice clarifying the meaning of the 'adverse to or in conflict with' standard."

 Arbitrator Glendon cautioned that his determination did not mean that the practice could never be terminated, but found that the City had failed to establish a basis for doing so. He noted:

The City could give notice at the end of the contract term that it no longer would recognize it under a successor agreement, thereby making it a subject for bargaining. To justify unilateral termination of the practice during the contract term, however, the City had the burden of proving that circumstances under which it was established and perpetuated no longer existed and that current circumstances are such that it is reasonable to believe any and all  projecting would be adverse to or in conflict with police employment. Absent clear, convincing evidence to that effect, the City's unilateral mid-term prohibition of all projecting would be an arbitrary, unjustified exercise of its "administrative responsibility" recognized in [the cba].

Accordingly he declared the Chief's March notice to be void ab initio and remanded the dispute to the parties for negotiation of the monetary remedy.

The Toledo Blade reports on the decision here, and links to Arbitrator Glendon's Award here.

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