VLRB Rules DHR Violated Labor Contract By Cutting Off Sick Leave After Six Weeks

November 8, 2017

November 8, 2017


VSEA’s Legal Team won another victory at the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) this week. This case strikes down DHR’s practice of compelling employees to use annual leave after six weeks of sick leave to cover their own injuries or illnesses, even when they have accrued sick leave. This is a longstanding issue that has frustrated VSEA members for years. The State has been arguing that contract language adopted in 1999 cuts off sick leave after six weeks and requires employees to use all their other paid leave before being eligible to draw on sick leave again. Except in the most serious cases, this effectively caps sick leave usage at six weeks per year. This is a concession that VSEA never agreed to in negotiations.

The VLRB sustained a grievance by an AOT employee who broke his knee and was out of work for seven weeks. The State ordered him to request FMLA time and then to use annual leave for the last week of his recovery. This decision orders the State to restore five days of annual leave to his record. It concludes with the following:

"In sum, we conclude that the State violated Article 31 of the Contract by requiring Grievant to use five days of annual leave for one of the seven weeks he was absent from work due to his serious injury. Grievant was entitled to use accrued sick leave for this week. His wish to do so was prevented by the State’s position that the cascade provisions of Article 35, Section 5, of the Contract required that he use family leave for this week. The State was entitled to exercise its undisputed right to designate Grievant’s leave for a knee fracture as counting towards Grievant’s annual limits under the state and federal family and medical leave statutes, but the State did not have the right to compel Grievant to use annual leave during this period. As a result, Grievant lost five days of annual leave and should be reimbursed for the value of the leave."

"A few weeks ago, it’s the Judicial Branch not following the law and now the Board finds that the State has been wrongly interpreting FMLA and how employees can use it for quite a while," says VSEA President Dave Bellini. "This is a nice victory and great proof of how one worker’s win can make it so the State actually has to change course and begin applying the law correctly for all state employees. VSEA vows to continue to challenge any and all questionable interpretations and directives by the State because it’s a big part of what a union does for its members, which is to give them a voice and the representation that they might not have on their own."

Read Entire VLRB Decision Here: http://bit.ly/2hSX9Zm

Special Note: This decision will apply to all state employees’ FMLA leave requests moving forward. It does not provide retroactivity for an employee who may have been issued a similar directive since 1999. A number of employees have filed grievances on the same issue that are currently held in abeyance, and that should now reach the same result.

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