Pennsylvania Record

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Grievance award reinstated for Pittsburgh's police union in dispute over marathon detail

State Court

By Solange DeLisle | Feb 14, 2020

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PITTSBURGH — The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has overturned a lower court's decision to set aside a grievance award to the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1. 

In a Jan. 22 opinion, Chief Justice Thomas Saylor sent the case back to Commonwealth Court to restore the arbitrator's ruling on compensating police officers.

The FOP filed a grievance against the City of Pittsburgh, claiming the city violated terms of their collective bargaining agreement by canceling a day off and forcing off-duty police officers to work a "voluntary" detail for the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon. 

The union alleged about 100 officers were needed for the marathon, and with unfilled spots, 70 officers had a pass day cancelled on May 1, 2016, and were forced to work the event. 

The FOP claims the officers were only paid a minimum of four hours plus any additional time worked at time-and-a-half.  The FOP said the officers who were scheduled off and called into work the secondary employment detail should have received at least eight hours of overtime pay. 

The union's contract with the city outlined that a normal work week consists of five working days with two days off back-to-back, which are known as "pass days."  When it comes to work outside of an officer's regular schedule, the collective bargaining agreement stated employees are guaranteed at least four hours of work or pay and should be compensated at the overtime rate. 

It also dictates that "Secondary Employment," such as special events where union members would be required to work in uniform, must be voluntary.

The city's position was that secondary employment was not an issue. It argued even though the marathon had secondary employment spots, the call outs weren't connected. The city also noted that the Commonwealth Court had already found they didn't have to pay officers working "on-duty" at special events the same rate as those working secondary employment details. 

City officials also disagreed with the union's stance that officers called into work on their off day should have been paid overtime for eight hours.

Arbitration then began. The arbitrator found the city didn't violate the contract and was allowed to cancel off days to have officers work the detail. The arbitrator did detect an issue when it came to the appropriate pay for the cancellation. She found that a "pass day" was an entire eight-hour shift, so by canceling the "pass day," the officers were entitled to eight hours of overtime pay.

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Pittsburgh Police Department