Generally speaking, Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) define a grievance as a misinterpretation or misapplication of the specific terms of the CBA. Although through time, the arbitration process and arbitrators have developed a broader range of potential claims under the CBA, such as past practice and reliance on external laws, those topics are not covered by this Article. Grievances are not complaints about a supervisor or a negative action taken by the employer that affects the employee. Often times, employees are confused about why no grievance was filed or a grievance, if filed, was not advanced to arbitration. The reasons are numerous and vary from case to case, but this article in intended to give employees some historical background about the grievance process and hopefully give some insight as to how cases are evaluated.
Prior to collective bargaining, the private sector workplace was governed by the at-will doctrine. Essentially, employees worked “at the will of the employer” so long as the employer’s actions didn’t violate a law or weren’t taken for discriminatory purposes. Under the master-servant relationship, the employer had every right to determine the employees wage, terms of employment, work schedule, and ultimately whether to terminate the employee for any or no reason. When the parties to a CBA talk about “management rights,” those rights include every possible action that the employer could historically and legally take. From a historical perspective, the Federal labor laws in the early twentieth century, such as the Railway Labor Act (1926), the Davis-Bacon Act (1931), the Wagner Act (1935) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (1938), began to limit the employer’s ability to act in certain ways. Although the FLSA set a minimum wage and a maximum hours limit before the employer had to pay an overtime rate, there were little restrictions on the employer’s actions. In fact, until the 1930s, employers could require employees to enter into a yellow-dog contract. A yellow-dog contract (a yellow-dog clause of a contract, or an ironclad oath) was an agreement between an employer and an employee in which the employee agreed, as a condition of employment, not to be a member of a labor union. In the United States, these contracts were widely used by employers to prevent the formation of unions
While collective bargaining agreements have existed since the 19th century, disputes often ended in violent and deadly battles. The Homestead Strike was an industrial lockout and strike which began on June 30, 1892, at the Homestead Steel Works in the Pittsburgh area town of Homestead, Pennsylvania, between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and the Carnegie Steel Company. The strike resulted in 3 management agents and 7 workers being killed. None of the management agents were even charged with crimes while all the employees were charged with crimes, resulting in one employee being convicted. With the expansion of Federal labor laws in the 1930s, the grievance and arbitration process was a means to peacefully resolve differences.
“Since the 1960s, the tremendous growth of employee organization and collective bargaining in the public sector has been accompanied by the rapidly expanding use of arbitration for public employee disputes. This development has been particularly important because federal and state employees continue to be restricted by the traditional prohibition against strikes by public employees. Neutral dispute settlement machinery is essential in the public sector if organizational and bargaining rights are to have any real substance.” Elkouri and Elkouri, How Arbitration Works, 5th Ed., p. 14.
With the advent of formal collective bargaining in Ohio in 1984, public employees could negotiate and implement the terms and conditions of their employment and some designated classifications were prohibited from striking to resolve the negotiation process. The negotiated terms and conditions of employment contained in the CBA are a direct limit on and exception to the traditional management rights. In addition to defining wages and benefits, the “Just Cause” standard is one of the most important, and often taken for granted, aspects of the CBA. Under a CBA, management retains the right to take all lawful action, except where the CBA specifically requires or prohibits management action.
Two of the more common examples include scheduling and disciplinary action. In the absence of language in the CBA related to work schedules, in general, the employer is permitted to schedule employees or modify an employee’s schedule as they deem fit. In the case of an employer modifying an employee’s schedule with little or no notice, while objectionable to the employee and the Union, the action may not be grievable as a violation of the CBA. Conversely, under the just cause provision related to discipline, the employer is now prohibited from disciplining an employee for no reason. The Employer is required to prove a justifiable reason for discipline and that the level of discipline is appropriate for the alleged conduct.
So in evaluating whether a grievance exists or determining the merits of a grievance, the single most important question is “What does the CBA say about the subject?” If the subject of the grievance is contained in the CBA, a grievance exists if management misapplies the provision. If the subject is not covered in the CBA, a grievance will likely not exist.
 Future articles will discuss the interpretation of CBA language and the arbitration process.
 The Railway Labor Act required employers to bargain collectively and prohibited discrimination against unions. It applied originally to interstate railroads and their related undertakings.
 Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act, requiring that contracts for construction entered into by the Federal Government specify the minimum wages to be paid to persons employed under those contracts.
 The NLRA was applicable to all firms and employees in activities affecting interstate commerce with the exception of agricultural laborers, government employees, and those persons subject to the Railway Labor Act. It guaranteed covered workers the right to organize and join labor movements, to choose representatives and bargain collectively, and to strike.
Employers were forbidden by the Act from engaging in any of the five categories of unfair labor practices. Violation of this prohibition could result in the filing of a complaint with the NLRB by a union or employees. After investigation, the NLRB could order the cessation of such practices, reinstatement of a person fired for union activities, the provision of back pay, restoration of seniority, benefits, etc. An NLRB order issued in response to an unfair labor practice complaint was made enforceable by the Federal courts.
The NLRA included no provisions defining or prohibiting as unfair any labor practices by unions. The Act served to spur growth of U.S. unionism -- from 3,584,000 union members in 1935 to 10,201,000 by 1941, the eve of World War II. The 1941 figure represented more than 25 percent of the nonagricultural workforce in the U.S. Congressional Digest, June-July, 1993.
 Known as the wage-hour law, this 1938 Act established minimum wages and maximum hours for all workers engaged in covered "interstate commerce."
Last Updated (Thursday, 13 June 2013 19:54)
Generally, the two most important items that our members negotiate are wages and health insurance. Wages are fairly self-explanatory. Health Insurance is one of the most complicated subjects of bargaining for members and something the effective negotiator must understand. A $500 increase in your deductible, assuming wages remain frozen, could equate to more than a 1% loss of income. In addition, for 2012, only 11.8% of family medical premiums were paid 100% by the employer . As a result, almost all employees pay for health insurance in one form or another.
A second aspect to consider before beginning negotiations is whether your unit is user-based or fairly healthy. This is important to consider because if the vast majority of your members are “users” of the plan, an increase in deductibles or co-pays will have a greater impact on your members as compared to a fixed monthly contribution. If your unit is fairly healthy and uses only preventative care, your members will pay a premium for services that few members use.
Finally, most neutrals will not “carve-out” a particular group of employees compared to all the other bargaining units in the jurisdiction. If your fire department has settled their contract including healthcare, chances are you will get the same plan. So, if possible, get on the same page.
SERB publishes on their website the Annual Report on the Cost of Health Insurance in Ohio’s Public Sector. The SERB report details, among other statistical data, the average cost of healthcare for employers and the average employee contribution toward the premium. In 2012, the statewide average monthly premium for medical and prescription coverage is $506 for single coverage and $1,339 for family coverage . The employer’s average increase in health insurance between January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2012 was 6.8% for single coverage and 7.0% for family coverage . When employees pay a portion of the medical premium, the average employee monthly contribution is $63 for single and $173 for family coverage . This data is important to understand how your unit compares to the statewide average; however, it does not provide a basis on which to determine whether your employer is offering a fair deal.
This article will discuss the four main points to consider when looking at health insurance. You should be aware that health insurance premiums as quoted by the various insurance companies (“insurers”) are comprised of hundreds of different variables, including specific coverages, limits, exclusions, and your particular jurisdiction’s claims. Most of these items are out of your control, unless your unit is part of a health insurance committee (“HIC”) that is permitted to investigate and make recommendations related to these items. If you are part of a HIC, you should ask to discuss the specific plan designs with the insurer’s representative, not just your jurisdiction’s human resources representative. Simple changes to a plan design could result in a reduction in employer premiums and, in the end, the employees’ contribution.
The four main items to compare when looking at a plan design and the employer’s offer are premiums, deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays.
Premiums are, of course, the amount the employer pays to obtain coverage. This may include prescription, dental, and vision costs, if your employer offers these coverages or these costs may be separately calculated. The question usually arises whether the employee contribution should be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of the employer’s premium. The answer depends on each particular circumstance.
A deductible is the amount of money each covered member must pay first before the insurance begins. Usually the deductible is expressed in terms of per person and an aggregate. (A $1000/$2000 deductible requires that each covered person must pay the first $1,000 or once the total amount paid for the family in the aggregate reaches $2,000 the insurance begins). Some employers have gone to a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with the option of a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HDHP usually has a single deductible of $2,500 or $3,000 and a family deductible of $5,000 or $6,000. The cost of the up-front deductible may be offset if the employer offers to deposit some or all of the amount into the members HSA. The benefit to the employer is substantial savings on the premium which allows for extra funds available to be deposited directly to the employees account.
Statistically, 85-90% of all covered persons on health insurance use less than $5,000 in claims per year. Potentially the insurance company may not pay any claims on the HDHP. The benefit to the employee is, if the employee does not use the plan, the money deposited stays in the employee account to be used at any time in the future for medical care. The risk to the employee, especially where the employer does not cover the full cost of the deductible, is if the member uses the full $5,000, that medical bill must be paid first by the member. Expressed in terms of a monthly cost this equals $416.66 per month; far in excess of the statewide average. For the most part, employees should not be responsible for a high deductible and also pay a premium contribution.
Next is co-insurance. If your co-insurance is 100% coverage, then you owe nothing after the deductible is met. If your coinsurance benefit on your policy is 80/20, then you will be responsible for 20% of the balance of the bill after meeting the deductible and the insurance company will pick up 80%. (Assume a $100,000 medical bill with a $5,000 deductible). If your co-insurance responsibility is not capped, you would owe 20% of $95,000 or $19,000. However, most policies have what is called a “maximum out of pocket” or coinsurance cap. If your coinsurance limit (including deductible) is $10,000, then you are only responsible for the $5,000 deductible and an additional $5,000 in co-insurance, not the whole $19,000. The insurer will cover the difference. Therefore, your true out of pocket “maximum” on your policy is the deductible plus your coinsurance up to the stated “maximum out-of-pocket .” It does not make as much difference as you may think when choosing between a 70/30 coinsurance plan versus an 80/20 coinsurance plan so long as you have a reasonable cap. Without a cap, the 80/20 plan would be considerably better.
Finally, you should compare co-pays. A co-pay is the amount that you owe the doctor for each visit, generally excluding preventative care. You may have to pay a $10 co-pay each time you visit a doctor, $50 to visit an urgent care or $100 to visit the ER. A large family with multiple doctor visits would expend more for co-pays. However, by raising the co-pay you may be able to save on the premium.
In examining your contract, the employee premium contribution is not the only subject to bargain over, all these items can be negotiated. These four aspects must all be evaluated to determine what is best for your unit and when combined what is most cost effective for the employees.
Scenario: Officer X posts on his public Facebook page the following comment: “Fellow citizens of City, it is unfortunate that your wasteful Chief of Police and spineless City Council members have refused to fund the purchase of new tactical weapons for the police department. This decision will someday lead to certain harm for the citizens of City.” Officer X is terminated.
I indicated in my previous article related to recent trends in the social media and the workplace (OPBA Police Beat, Volume 33, Number 2, Summer 2011) that there were potential 1st Amendment issues with regard to employer policies. Many employers have instituted social media policies that restrict or limit a public employee’s ability to criticize, denigrate or voice any opinion about the employer. This is seen, from the eyes of the employer, as insubordination or conduct unbecoming. For the most part, the courts have upheld discipline or termination for certain employee speech and by virtue of these decisions, placed reasonable limitations on the public employees right to speech (conduct is also considered a form of speech). Speech or conduct that disrupts or interferes with the public employer’s efficient and effective operation is punishable regardless of the 1st Amendment protection afforded the average citizen. The Supreme Court has held, “When a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom.” See, e.g., Waters v. Churchill (1994), 511 U.S. 661, 671, 114 S. Ct. 1878, 128 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1994) (plurality opinion) ("[T]he government as employer indeed has far broader powers than does the government as sovereign"). Government employers, like private employers, need a significant degree of control over their employees' words and actions; without it, there would be little chance for the efficient provision of public services. Connick v. Myers (1983), 461 U.S. 138, 142, 103 S. Ct. 1684 ("[G]overnment offices could not function if every employment decision became a constitutional matter").
However, the Supreme Court has adopted a standard to determine whether a public employee’s speech is protected speech or unprotected and subject to discipline. The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution's First Amendment protects a public employee's right, in certain circumstances, to speak as a citizen addressing matters of public concern. Under the First Amendment, (1) the speech restrictions that a government entity imposes in its role as employer must be directed at speech that has some potential to affect the entity's operations; and (2) so long as public employees are speaking as citizens about matters of public concern, such employees must face only those speech restrictions that are necessary for their employers to operate efficiently and effectively. See Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006), 547 U.S. 410 at syllabus; 126 S. Ct. 1951. “Thus, two inquiries guide interpretation of the constitutional protections accorded to public employee speech. The first inquiry requires determining whether the employee spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern. If the answer is no, then the employee has no First Amendment cause of action based on his or her employer's reaction to the speech. If the answer is yes, then (1) the possibility of a First Amendment claim arises, and (2) the question becomes whether the relevant government entity had an adequate justification for treating the employee differently from any other member of the general public.” Garcetti at 418, citing Pickering v. Board of Educ. (1968), 391 U.S. 563, 88 S. Ct. 1731. However, “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” Garcetti, at 421.
The Court reasoned that, “The Court's decisions, then, have sought both to promote the individual and societal interests that are served when employees speak as citizens on matters of public concern and to respect the needs of government employers attempting to perform their important public functions. See, e.g., Rankin v. McPherson (1987), 483 U.S. 378, 384, 107 S. Ct. 2891, 97 L. Ed. 2d 315 (recognizing "the dual role of the public employer as a provider of public services and as a government entity operating under the constraints of the First Amendment"). Underlying our cases has been the premise that while the First Amendment invests public employees with certain rights, it does not empower them to "constitutionalize the employee grievance." Connick, 461 U.S., at 154.
The Court has gone on to note in Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri (2011), 131 S. Ct. 2488, 2501, that a petition that “involves nothing more than a complaint about a change in the employee's own duties” does not relate to a matter of public concern and accordingly “may give rise to discipline without imposing any special burden of justification on the government employer.” United States v. Treasury Employees (1995), 513 U.S. 454, 466, 115 S. Ct. 1003. “The right of a public employee under the Petition Clause is a right to participate as a citizen, through petitioning activity, in the democratic process. It is not a right to transform everyday employment disputes into matters for constitutional litigation in the federal courts.” Duryea, at 2501.
So back to our scenario regarding Officer X, is the speech protected under the First Amendment so that Officer X can be reinstated or is it unprotected and Officer X’s termination will be upheld? Every case involves different facts and circumstances, but how would you decide?
Whether an officer is permitted to use deadly force against an apparently fleeing felony suspect remains one of the most critical judgment decisions facing law enforcement officers. Title 42, section 1983 of the United States Code imposes civil liability on an individual who, acting under color of state law, deprives a citizen of, among other things, his or her federally guaranteed constitutional rights. The shooting or killing of a fleeing suspect is a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment, and is therefore subject to constitutional complaints.
Under U.S. law, the “fleeing felon rule” has been limited to non-lethal force in most cases by Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985). In Garner, the Supreme Court held, “The Tennessee statute is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against, as in this case, an apparently unarmed, nondangerous fleeing suspect; such force may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” 471 U.S. at 11-12. The Court reasoned that “The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.” Id. The Court affirmed the decision of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reasoned that the killing of a fleeing suspect is a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment, and is therefore constitutional only if “reasonable.” The Tennessee statute failed as applied to this case because it did not adequately limit the use of deadly force by distinguishing between felonies of different magnitudes – “the facts, as found, did not justify the use of deadly force under the Fourth Amendment.” Officers cannot resort to deadly force unless they “have probable cause . . . to believe that the suspect has committed a felony and poses a threat to the safety of the officers or a danger to the community if left at large.” 471 U.S. at 5.
“Further, the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight; in other words, “[t]he calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments -- in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving -- about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989).
In Williams v. City of Grosse Pointe Park, 496 F.3d 482, 486 (6th Cir. Mich. 2007), the evidence fully supported the conclusion, as a matter of law, that an officer’s conduct was “objectively reasonable” at the time he fired his weapon. “On the evening of August 17, 2003, Officer Michael Miller and Sgt. James Hoshaw of the Grosse Pointe Park Police Department were on duty. While on duty, they learned of a citizen report that three individuals in a green Dodge Shadow were tampering with cars. Miller and Hoshaw came upon a green Dodge Shadow (the "Shadow"), driven by Williams and containing two other passengers. Miller and Hoshaw subsequently determined that the Shadow had been reported stolen. The video camera in Miller's police cruiser captured the events that followed. Miller and Hoshaw pursued the Shadow. At approximately 7:14 p.m., Hoshaw positioned his cruiser in front of the Shadow in order to block its path, while Miller's cruiser continued to approach from the rear. One of the passengers of the Shadow exited the car on foot. Williams then put the Shadow in reverse in an apparent effort to flee but found his egress blocked by Miller's cruiser. As it reversed, the Shadow collided with Miller's cruiser. Following the collision, Hoshaw exited his cruiser and, brandishing his weapon, directed an expletive toward Williams. Hoshaw approached the Shadow and stuck his gun in the driver's side window, pointing his weapon at Williams's head. Williams then accelerated in an effort to move around Hoshaw's cruiser and flee. In his attempt to navigate around the cruiser, Williams drove the Shadow over the curb and onto the sidewalk. Hoshaw, failing to release his grasp on the car, was knocked down as it accelerated. In the next instant, the video depicts Miller firing several rounds as the car moves out of view.” Id. at 484. According to the Court, “based on Williams' conduct, Officer Miller had probable cause to believe that Williams posed a threat of serious physical harm to Sgt. Hoshaw, himself, and to other citizens.” The Court continued, “viewed objectively, Williams’ conduct showed that he was not intimidated by the police presence, would not hesitate to deliberately use the vehicle as a weapon, and was intent on fleeing from the police, which in turn posed a threat to the public traveling on a major Detroit thoroughfare.” Id. at 486.
Deadly force was not deemed justified, however, even in cases where a suspect was armed where the suspect was not approaching the police or brandishing the weapon in a threatening manner. For instance, deadly force was held not justified where a suspect’s vehicle was “moving slowly and in a non-aggressive manner, could not have hit any of the officers, and was stationary at the time of the shooting.” Kirby v. Duva, 530 F.3d 475, 482 (6th Cir. 2008).
Also, in Smith v. Cupp, 430 F.3d 766, 774-75 (6th Cir. 2005), the Court held that suspect who had taken control of officer’s patrol car, although he was in possession of a dangerous weapon, “was not threatening the lives of those around him” because officer was never in the suspect’s line of flight and had already been passed by the car when he shot the suspect. On April 27, 2002, Deputy Sheriff Marty Dunn proceeded to arrest Glen Smith for making harassing telephone calls in Dunn’s presence. Pursuant to the arrest, Dunn advised Smith of his Miranda rights, cuffed Smith’s hands behind his back and put Smith in the back seat of Dunn’s police cruiser. Additionally, Dunn patted Smith down to be sure that he did not have any weapons or other contraband. Dunn left the engine running to provide air conditioning. Unfortunately, Dunn’s police cruiser was not equipped with a security partition separating the front seat from the back seat. When Dunn left the vehicle to talk to the tow truck driver, Richard Rutherford, Smith climbed into the front seat and took control of Dunn’s cruiser. Rutherford asserted that Dunn ran towards the moving patrol car with his firearm drawn and recalls thinking he “was fixing to watch Officer Dunn get run over.” Id. at 769. Rutherford claimed Smith was turning the patrol car to the left, but stated he was not sure whether Smith’s swerve to the left was for the purpose of redirecting the car at Dunn or following the roadway around the building and presumably out of the parking lot. Dunn claimed he and Rutherford were standing not more than a vehicle’s length from the patrol car’s original position and that Smith was clearly trying to run him and Rutherford over rather than attempting to leave the parking lot. Id. Dunn claimed Smith "rapidly accelerated directly at him” and Rutherford and fearing for his life and that of Mr. Rutherford, he “drew his gun and fired four times in rapid succession at Smith.” Id. According to Dunn, three of the shots hit the car, the fourth hit Smith “above the left ear,” and the patrol car “shot past [Officer] Dunn barely missing him and ran off the parking lot and collided with a tree.” Id. The autopsy report showed the bullet entered the back of Smith’s head, behind his ear, at a slightly back-to-front angle. Id. at 775. The Court noted in denying Dunn’s motion for summary judgment, “[T]hough Smith could have used the police cruiser to injure or kill Officer Dunn, under the plaintiffs’ version of the facts he was not doing so when Dunn shot him or even before Dunn shot him. Although Smith had possession of a dangerous “weapon,” he was not threatening the lives of those around him with it when he was fatally shot. This type of situation does not present “a perceived serious threat of physical harm to the officer or others in the area from the perspective of a reasonable officer.” Sample v. Bailey, 409 F.3d 689, 697 (6th Cir. 2005). A jury would therefore be entitled to determine that Officer Dunn’s use of force was unreasonable and accordingly unconstitutional.” Id. at 775.