Sunday, July 30, 2017

Assignment to light duty and seniority issues - Court upholds arbitrator's award

The PA Commonwealth Court has upheld an award of Arbitrator Mark McCloskey in connection with a grievance filed by the Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union against Allegheny County.

The issue before Arbitrator McCloskey was whether the County violated the seniority provisions of the cba when it assigned an employee to light duty and gave him work schedules and pass days that had been denied to more senior employees.

Because of a work related injury, Samuel Pastore was assigned to light duty positions, first as a security camera monitor and later in Internal Affairs. He was designated as a "Floater" and was granted an ongoing Monday through Friday 7:00 am to 3:30 shift with Saturday and Sunday as his "pass days" or days off. The dispute in this case arose when the Union claimed that Pastore's light duty assignment did not entitle him to bypass the bidding process.

The County argued that it retained the managerial prerogative to create light duty assignments, and that this right included "those tangential terms and conditions of employment which might otherwise constitute bargainable items ...." While agreeing that the creation of light duty assignments were a managerial prerogative, the Union asserted that shift assignments were still subject to the cba.

Arbitrator McCloskey sustained the grievance, concluding that the County could not award Pastore work schedules or pass days that had been denied to more senior employees.  The County sought to vacate the award, but the trial court upheld it in all respects. The County appealed to the Commonwealth Court which has now affirmed.

Applying the "essence test" the Court concluded :

The County exercised its managerial prerogative and assigned Pastore to a light duty position; Pastore was designated as a Floater while holding that position, and that status did not change.Pursuant to the CBA, officers who are Floaters express a preference for shift and pass days based on seniority. Because Article XXX provides for correctional officers in a light duty status to express their choice of shift and pass days according to their seniority and because Article XXVIII allows Floaters to express their preference for pass days which are awarded based on seniority, the CBA arguably addresses the situation of assigning shift and pass days to a Floater on light duty and subjects that situation to the seniority bidding process. Thus, the Arbitrator's Award, which relies on these provisions, is rationally derived from the language of the CBA. Moreover, the Arbitrator's Award does not direct the County to cease assigning Pastore the light duty position, nor does it necessarily eliminate Pastore's Saturday/Sunday pass days. Rather, the Award directs the County to cease assigning Pastore work schedules or pass days while denying those days to more senior members. The Arbitrator's interpretation can be reconciled with the language of the CBA, and it is not the role of this Court to override that determination by reinterpreting the CBA. Accordingly, we may not vacate the Award. [footnote omitted]

The Court's decision can be found here.

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