In re Wright County and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Council 65

127 Lab. Arb. Rep. 811 (2009)

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In re Wright County and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Council 65

Labor Arbitration
127 Lab. Arb. Rep. 811 (2009)

Facts

Wright County (county) (defendant) and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Council 65 (union) (plaintiff) were parties to a labor agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, all employees had to serve a six-month probationary period before which they did not have the protections of the labor agreement. The county hired an employee on January 15, 2008, on a half-time basis. In September 2008, the employee suffered an injury, which required a leave of absence from November 2008 through February 2009. The county terminated the employee in February 2009, and a grievance followed. The county claimed that part-time employees’ probationary periods were prorated so that the employee in question had a one-year probation period (instead of six months) because of her half-time status. According to the county, this had been the practice for years even though it was contrary to the express language of the labor agreement. Because the employee’s medical leave tolled her probationary period, the employee was terminated during probation and was not able to bring a grievance under the agreement, argued the county. The union argued that this was contrary to the plain language of the agreement, which provided for a six-month probationary period. According to the union, the employee was eligible to exercise the grievance procedure. The parties agreed to submit this threshold question to arbitration before arbitrating the merits.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Jacobs, Arbitrator)

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