Las Vegas POA

City Stuck With Police Director’s Grievance Resolution

Written on 11/06/2020
Will Aitchison

The City of Newark, New Jersey and the Newark Police Superior Officers’ Association (SOA) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The SOA represents officers in the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain.

In 2013, the SOA filed a grievance with the City’s then-Police Director Samuel DeMaio alleging that the City had incorrectly calculated the amounts due to members for their 2010 accrued compensatory time payouts. The payouts did not include longevity.

DeMaio sustained the grievance, determining “when active members receive their compensatory time payments, they are entitled to receive longevity as part of those payments.” As such, DeMaio authorized the City to “calculate longevity due on all past compensatory time payouts and include longevity on all future compensatory time payouts for all affected members.”

The City did not challenge DeMaio’s decision in arbitration but failed to implement it. In 2014, the SOA filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging the City’s failure to comply with DeMaio’s decision effectively repudiated the collective bargaining agreement.

A hearing officer for New Jersey’s Public Employment Relations Commission agreed with the SOA. The City argued that DeMaio’s decision violated the contract and provided members payouts that they were not contractually entitled to receive. The hearing officer found the argument unavailing: “The Commission has held that an employer’s refusal to abide by a decision of its designated grievance representative constitutes a refusal to negotiate in good faith. If the parties are not bound by the results of the intermediate steps of a grievance procedure they intended to be binding, then the procedure will be ineffective in quickly and inexpensively resolving disputes. An employer will be bound by its negotiated grievance procedure and the decisions of the agents it has authorized to represent it at each step.

“We reject the City’s assertion that it is not refusing to negotiate in good faith nor repudiating the grievance procedure because the affected SOA members are not entitled to these longevity payments pursuant to the parties’ contract. The Commission’s role is not to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the City’s designated grievance representative who evaluated the substantive and procedural merits of the underlying issue. Moreover, the contractual merits of a grievance are not relevant to the issue of whether an employer repudiated an applicable grievance procedure.

“If the City disagreed with the basis for DeMaio’s grievance decision, it was incumbent upon the City to file a demand for arbitration in accordance with the parties’ negotiated grievance procedure.”

City of Newark, 47 NJPER ¶ 15 (NJ PERC ALJ 2020).

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