Court says Floral Park police can take pay dispute to arbitration

Court says Floral Park police can take pay dispute to arbitration
(Pictured left to right) Floral Park Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald and Trustee Frank Chiara give their reports during the Dec. 6 meeting. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Floral Park police officers who worked during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have a right to go to arbitration for double-time pay they said their contract calls for, New York’s Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court has ruled.

The Floral Park Police Benevolent Association in September 2020 began an arbitration proceeding, a process in which a third party helps settle labor disputes, against the village in seeking a “Contract Interpretation” for a provision in their collective bargaining agreement titled “Additional Paid Holidays,” according to court documents. 

The holiday provision says when the mayor, or designated representative in their absence, declares a holiday for village employees for either an emergency or other reasons, “the members who have reported to work prior to such declaration or actually worked thereafter shall have such time worked payable at the option of the Village Board on either a cash basis or as compensatory time.”

Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald said during the Dec. 6 board of trustees meeting that the PBA’s claims are “without merit.”

“It was and is the village’s position that the CBA’s “Holiday” pay provisions are inapplicable, were never triggered in this instance, and that the PBA’s claims are without merit,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, agreed with the Village and enjoined the PBA’s arbitration from proceeding. However, the New York State Appellate Division ruled recently that the merits or lack of merit of the PBA’s claim should be determined by an arbitrator and not the courts.”

This is not the first time the village and its PBA disputed pay. 

The police asked the village for extra compensation in December 2012 for their work during and in the aftermath of Sandy between Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 of that year.

The village had paid the officers $153,306 in overtime pay when the union filed the grievance, according to the Nassau County Supreme Court ruling.

But because Mayor Thomas Tweedy had declared an emergency during Sandy, the PBA argued their contract with the village entitled them to more compensation.

The state Appellate Division court ruled in 2015 the police union was entitled to arbitration because its collective bargaining agreement with the village provided for it and no law prohibits it. The ruling reversed the county Supreme Court’s denial of the arbitration from October 2013, which the village requested because it said the police union did not follow its grievance process correctly.

In 2019, the grievance was settled in accordance with a fully executed stipulation of settlement, according to court documents. 

While the litigation remains ongoing, Fitzgerald said the village cannot comment on it. 

“The village may need to arbitrate the PBA’s claim that they are entitled to the additional ‘holiday’ pay during COVID. The Village’s position remains that the PBA’s claim lacks any merit,” Fitzgerald said. “We will continue to keep the taxpayers advised of any future developments when they occur, but understand due to the current litigation no further comments will be made at this time.”

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