VLRB Rules For VSEA Member Who Questioned Tuition Reimbursement Award Amount

Ruling Clarifies NMU, Supervisory & DG Contract Language

Vermont Labor Board Rules For VSEA On State’s Tuition Reimbursement Misinterpretation
                The Vermont Labor Relations Board issued a decision on May 14 that clarifies the amount of tuition reimbursement owed VSEA members belonging to the Defender General Unit.
                The Board’s decision (Grievance of Christopher Robinson and the VSEA, Docket 08-51) clarifies that the State had for years been misinterpreting “criteria for reimbursement” contract language (Article 37, Section 6), which reads: “The maximum reimbursement under this Article shall not exceed 80 percent (80%) of the actual out-of-pocket cost for tuition, up to three hundred fifty dollars ($350) per credit, to the employee.”  Prior to the Board’s May ruling, the State had instead been awarding 80% of the $350 figure and not 80% of the total credit dollar amount, meaning lower dollar amounts were being awarded to eligible VSEA members.  According to VSEA attorneys, the Board awarded the Grievant Christopher Robinson the full amount of the tuition reimbursement he was owed – $350 per credit, but its order did not include any other retroactive awards.
                “This is a victory because from this day forward, VSEA members will receive the correct amount of tuition reimbursement owed them,” explained VSEA Associate General Counsel Abigail Doolittle, who filed the grievance. “It’s surprising that this error was not caught earlier, but VSEA is very pleased that it was finally caught and corrected.”
This week, DHR assured VSEA by letter that it would follow the Board’s interpretation of the same tuition reimbursement language in the NMU and Supervisory Unit Contracts.  Therefore, all NMU and Supervisory Unit members will now be entitled to tuition reimbursement up to $350 per credit.      
                “DHR’s decision is clearly the right thing to do,” added Attorney Doolittle.