Arbitrator: City wrongly denied overtime

The city of Princeton’s failure to properly compensate some of its employees for work they performed violated the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with the employees’ union.

As a result, the city of Princeton must pay a number of public works employees the equivalent of four hours of pay for work they performed plowing snow during a December 2010 snowstorm.

That’s the ruling from Arbitrator Janice Frankman, who presided over a Oct. 12 hearing between the city and AFSCME Council 65.

At issue was work performed by employees of the city’s public works department. The workers filed three separate grievances relating to compensation for work scheduled by the city outside the employees’ regular Monday through Friday, 40-hour work schedule.

Specifically, employees were called into work to plow snow on a Sunday but were not given overtime for the hours worked. Instead, the employees were ordered to go home early the following Friday to keep the employees from working overtime.

The union filed a grievance and asked that the city pay the employees time and a half for the Sunday shift and reinstate their pay for the hours they were sent home the following Friday. The grievance was denied by the city on the basis that it retains the right to alter work schedules. The city also responded that it only pays overtime for hours actually worked. The employees did not work over 40 hours, so they did not earn overtime pay, the city responded.

The union called three witnesses at the October grievance hearing. The city called two witnesses.

In a January 4 ruling, Arbitrator Frankman ruled that the union satisfied its burden of proof and demonstrated that the city breached the conditions of the collective bargaining agreement by failing to pay the employees at an overtime rate for the Sunday snowplowing shift.

However, the city was right in sending the employees home the following Friday to hold them at 40 hours for the week.

“The employer has a clear right to schedule and change the schedule of its employees’ work,” Frankman wrote.

As part of her decision, Frankman ruled that the city employees who plowed snow on the Sunday in question be compensated the extra half-time of wages for the eight hours they worked that day. The city was also ordered to cease and desist from disregarding compensation provisions applicable to weekend work.

Frankman informed both sides that she would retain jurisdiction over the matter for 60 days to assist the city and union in the implementation of the order.