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EdPDLaw Editorial
February 14, 2015


No matter what you call it or how you refer to it, discipline for Sick Time is Number One.

Sick time is awarded according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with increases for seniority and titles.  Most Departments issue sick time once a calendar year, usually in January.  There are those that put your time on the books on the anniversary date of your hiring.

Either way. abuse of sick time is the number one, most frequently used discipline charge in law enforcement.

Essex County has been successful in its fight with their Administration.  Their "Attendance Control Policy" has come under scrutiny on two occasions by the courts and although the Policy itself has been found to be legal, their application of the Policy has been found to be illegal.  

Supervisors are not permitted to abuse their "managerial prerogative" by using the legitimate Sick/Attendance Time Policy to retaliate and harass members.  The PBA President has given some good examples of the Administrative Abuse of Sick Time and I quote examples here:

*A call to your home is acceptable. A home visit is acceptable, but when you’re called twice and it’s verified that you are home sick and you still get a home visit and a third phone call while the home visit is occurring, it’s clear that management is attempting to intimidate and harass you as opposed to seeking proof of a sick day’s validity.

*A doctor’s note request is acceptable, but when you submit a note and it’s fully verified that you are legitimate, but you are still sent to a FFD Exam, it’s clear that management is attempting to intimidate and harass you and we have found in the past that our county doctors are more than willing to be part of this intimidation practice and have made their own threats to officers who are subjected to them such as termination, shift changes, or the loss of job related perks.    

*Being disciplined for sick time use that is excessive, not properly verified, or beyond your allotted amount in acceptable, but when you have already been disciplined, answered for your actions, accepted the discipline and management continues their request for a doctor’s note as their way to continue the discipline while you have sick time on the books, is clearly a sign of intimidation and harassment.

All Departments have aggressive supervisors that abuse their authority to fine and discipline for infractions of the Sick Time Policy.  As the President notes in his grievance, officers and supervisors have different definitions of "ABUSE".

In the Officer's opinion:

1.    Sick time is their time to use and they should be able to use it however they want.  Even when they run out of time they should be able to take off if they are legitimately sick or caring for a loved one.

In the Supervisor's opinion:

1.    When you use a sick day without being sick or to care for a sick dependent it is abuse.

Ultimately it is the Court's Opinion that counts and on two occasions in Essex County the Court has decided:

Officers are to blame when their use of sick time becomes obviously excessive, abusive, taken as a pattern, taken without proper explanation/verification or in amounts that exceed their yearly collective allotment.

Management is to blame when they abandon or try to over-extend allowances that they are given by the courts as to monitor, critique, and control sick time usage or abuse of sick time and they resort to using their lawful managerial prerogative in a spiteful, arbitrary, reactionary, antagonistic, retaliatory and harassing manner.

The problem in Essex arose when the Administration issued a "Doctor's Note Initiative" wherein any officer who was disciplined for sick time in 2014 is made to provide a doctor's note for each sick day used as of January 1st of this year until further notice and regardless of the fact that the officers have sick time on the books.

The individual officers have been notified in writing that they are required to bring in a doctor's note from now on and were made to sign for receipt of the notice.

The problem with the directive is that the officers were already previously punished for sick time infractions and the Administration is attempting to impose further discipline by placing them on this list and requiring that they bring in a note.  

The Union takes the following position:

"If a member was disciplined in 2014 for abuse of sick time, our position and concern is that moving into 2015, certain officers are now being further punished and being subjected to corrective measures such as being forced to bring in a doctor's note before abuse is even determined or that corrective measures are warranted."

The President used the following example:

If I was charged, found guilty of shoplifting and paid the legal price, must I prove each time in the future that I did not shoplift every time I walk into a store?

No, the law will give me the benefit of the doubt that I will not shoplift again, but if I do, the legal system will deal with me appropriately and accordingly.

Our disciplinary practices are no different. We cannot be subjected to continued punitive actions for past violations and before a future violation occurs.

Click to read Grievance            Click to read correspondence to the Captain

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