PITTSBURGH – A former Allegheny County Jail corrections guard claims an arbitrator overstepped the authority of her role in punishing her for alleged dereliction of her duty in failing to notice the death of a jail inmate.
Allegheny County filed a petition in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 27 versus the Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union, of Pittsburgh.
The county is a political subdivision based in Pittsburgh, while the union respondent is a labor organization representing corrections officers employed by the county at the Allegheny County Jail, and governed by the Public Employee Relations Act. Both parties are bound to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
“Veronica Brown was an Allegheny County Jail Corrections Officer and a member of the Union. The ACJ terminated grievant’s employment after grievant failed to perform the duties of her position, i.e.: conducting required guard tours and falsifying log entries indicating she had completed the guard tours,” the petition states.
“Union filed a grievance and the matter proceeded to arbitration before arbitrator Aleta Richmond. Grievant’s duties included performing a minimum of two guard tours per hour on the pod to which she was assigned, and recording her tours in a log maintained for that purpose. During said guard tours, grievant was responsible for looking into the cells to ensure the safety and security of the inmates and the pod.”
According to Richmond, Brown did not conduct the required two guard tours per hour on the night shift spanning from 11 p.m. on April 17, 2017 through 7 a.m. on April 18, 2017. Richmond further determined that Brown improperly recorded guard tours in the log that were not conducted on the grievant’s night shift, and that when Brown exited the guard station to conduct a tour, she was not checking on the inmate’s conditions.
“When grievant’s replacement for her meal break conducted his first guard tour, he discovered an inmate had hung herself in her cell. Within the past five years, grievant has been terminated, which via arbitration was subsequently reduced to a 20-month unpaid suspension, for her involvement in insurance fraud,” the petition reads.
“During arbitration, Union offered evidence of subsequent remedial measures to establish that corrections officers were not directed and therefore not aware of their duty to use a flashlight to look into the darkened cells. Over the objection of ACJ’s counsel, the arbitrator admitted into evidence subsequent remedial measures taken by the ACJ as evidence.”
As a result, the arbitrator reduced grievant’s termination to a suspension. Brown claims Richmond “exceeded her powers, issuing an arbitration award which imposed her own notion of industrial justice” and her decision “cannot be said to be rationally derived from the collective bargaining agreement.”
The plaintiff is seeking the Court to vacate Richmond’s arbitration award of Aug. 27.
The plaintiff is represented by Diego Correa of Andrews & Price, in Pittsburgh.
The defendant has not yet secured legal counsel, per Court records.
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case GD-18-012564
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org