Arbitration Award


In re

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office


Palm Beach County Police PBA


121 LA (BNA) 1624

AAA Case No. 32-390-100713-04


November 1, 2005, Decided

March 13, 2006, Reported


Harold D. Smith, Arbitrator. 




The Collective Bargaining Agreement (Contract) applicable to the issues in this case is effective March 26, 2004 through September 30, 2006. The Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association Inc. (PBA) is the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for the bargaining unit of employees as certified by the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC). Included in the bargaining unit are deputy sheriffs and a supervisory unit of sergeants and lieutenants. 


The Grievant, Sergeant Michael Antonopoulos, is a member of the supervisory unit. Antonopoulos participated in the promotional process for lieutenant in May 2004. He is challenging the right of another bargaining unit employee, Sergeant Michael Kirschner, to participate in the same promotional test while on military leave, after being called up for active duty. Kirschner is a major in the United States Army Reserve, who, at the time of the written test, was on active military duty in Williamsburg, Virginia. 


The grievance was processed to arbitration and a hearing was held on June 9, 2005. The parties filed post-hearing briefs. Counsel for the parties stated the issue as follows:  




As stated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO): 


Whether administration of a promotional examination off-site to a bargaining unit member on military leave for a period of extended active duty violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If so, what is the appropriate remedy? 


As stated by the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association: 


Was the off-site administration of the PBSO lieutenants’ promotional examination to Sgt. Michael Kirschner in compliance with the Parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreement and, if not, what shall be the remedy? 


The issue, as framed by both the PBSO and the PBA, involves the basic question of whether there was a violation of the Contract by the Employer in the off-site administration of the promotional examination for Kirschner. 


Applicable Contractual Provisions 


Article 2   Recognition 

The Sheriff recognizes the PBA as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for the bargaining unit of employees as certified by the Public Employees Relations Commission, Certification #1417 and #1416, with respect to the working conditions, rates of pay and other conditions of employment for those employees of the Sheriff working within the certified unit, to-wit; 



All full-time certified and sworn law enforcement officers below the rank of Sergeant, and all full-time certified and sworn law enforcement officers in the ranks of Sergeant and Lieutenant. 



All other appointees or employees, including appointees or employees of the Corrections Division, and all managerial or confidential appointees or employees. 


Article 5  Management Rights 

            The PBA recognizes the right of the Sheriff to operate, manage, and direct all affairs of his office, including the following: 


B. To hire, rehire, reinstate, promote, transfer, schedule, assign and retain employees in position with the Sheriff’s Office. 

I. The exercise of the above-defined rights by the Sheriff shall not preclude employees or the PBA from raising grievances should decisions on the above matters have the practical consequences of violating the terms of this Agreement and/or affecting any other conditions of employment. 

J. The PBA acknowledges that PBSO may make reasonable amendments, revisions, additions, deletions and/or changes to PBSO General Orders, S.O.P.’s Rules and Regulations and Policy Statements.


Article 13  Military 

The PBSO will apply the Military Leave Policy as stated in the PBSO


General Orders. 

Article 30 Promotions 

Section 1. Promotions will be made pursuant to GO 305.0-1, except as provided below. 

Section 5. There will be no make-up promotional examinations. However, upon request and if the employee can make testing arrangements suitable to PBSO with a state-approved police academy or an accredited university, the PBSO will make special testing arrangements to administer tests at the same date and time and under similar conditions to candidates who cannot appear at the regular test site due to: 1) Sheriff’s Office business, 2) approved bereavement leave requiring travel outside Palm Beach County, or 3) a catastrophic health emergency involving the employee’s family, which is limited to spouse, children, parents, and grandparents if they reside with the employee. 


Article 35 Maintenance of Conditions 

            Section 1. All job benefits in effect at the time of the execution of this agreement heretofore authorized by the Sheriff and not specifically provided for or abridged by this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect for the duration of this Agreement. 

            Section 2. The PBSO and the PBA shall meet at the request of either party to negotiate to the extent required by law any proposed changes in those rights and benefits not specifically covered by this Agreement, provided, however, no changes shall be made except when a waiver exists or where the change is negotiated or resolved in accordance with Chapter 447, Florida Statutes. 


Article 36 Grievance And Arbitration Procedure 

4. The arbitrator shall not have the power to add to, subtract from, modify or alter the terms of this collective bargaining agreement in arriving at a decision of the issue or issues presented, and shall confine his or her decision solely to the interpretation or application of the agreement. The arbitrator shall not have the authority to determine any issues not submitted. 


The grievance alleges a violation of Article 30, and others as may be related. The nature of the grievance is stated “Administration of Lieutenant’s examination off-site (regarding Sgt. Michael Kirschner) in violation of provisions pertaining thereto.” 


Article 30 of the Contract provides that promotion will be made pursuant to G.O. (General Order) 305.01. G.O. 305.01 is also referred to as SOP 305.01 (Standard Operating Procedure). The PBA points out that SOP 305.01 makes no reference to how the off-site administration of promotional testing should be handled for candidates who cannot appear at a regular test site. However, the evidence shows that SOP 305.01 was followed in administering off-site exams to employees on active military duty in 2002. 


Grievant Antonopoulos argues that Kirschner was provided more favorable treatment because he was permitted to sit for his testing in his own hotel suite in Virginia and at another, undisclosed, location in Washington, DC, while on military duty. Additionally, Kirschner did not produce military orders restricting his travel at the time of the testing, and he allegedly failed to complete the application process for promotional testing before the deadline. 


The PBSO argues that off-site, promotional testing of employees on military leave for active duty is required by the Contract, the Florida Public Employees Relations Act, and the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). In its post-hearing brief, counsel for the PBSO states in part:  


First, the parties’ Agreement requires that the agency continue existing “job benefits” that are not abridged by the Agreement. PBSO’s Military leave policy is such a continuing job benefit providing that employees preserve their promotional status. Preserving promotional status requires that employees on active military duty be permitted to participate in promotional testing so they do not lag behind their co-workers. 


Second, it would have been an unfair labor practice to not provide off-site promotional testing in the instant case. PBSO had offered off-site administration to active duty military personnel before the parties negotiated the Agreement, and the Agreement did not alter that practice. Thus, such off-site administration became the status quo that could only have been modified by explicit agreement of the parties. 


Finally, employers covered by USERRA, including PBSO, may not deny promotional opportunities to employees called to active duty. Because make-up examinations are expressly prohibited under the Agreement, the only reasonable way for the PBSO to meet this obligation is to administer promotional testing off-site. 


Summary of Documentation and Testimony 


Promotional testing and assessments result in establishment of promotional eligibility lists. Pursuant to SOP 305.01.5.6, promotional eligibility lists, also known as rosters, are active for two years from the date they are established, unless they are exhausted sooner. The last two lieutenant promotional rosters ran from January 1, 2002 until December 31, 2003 and from January 1, 2004 until December 31, 2005. The last round of promotional testing under SOP 305.01, prior to the 2004 testing, occurred in the spring of 2002. Lt. Frank DeMario, Human Resources Representative, sent a letter on July 17, 2002 to eligible employees who were on military leave, advising that those individuals who were not able to physically attend the testing for the sergeant promotional exam at the PBSO location to:  


Supply us with the name and address of your commanding officer, or his designee, who will receive the testing materials and instructions for you. 


Two employees on active duty elected to take the exam and they did so off-site under the supervision of a proctor. One employee took the exam at a military base in Cuba and the other at a military base in north Florida. 


The PBA distinguishes the 2002 exam from the 2004 exam on the basis that Kirschner was permitted to sit for his testing in his own hotel suite in Virginia and at another, undisclosed, location somewhere in Washington, DC. As stated earlier, the 2002 exams were administered prior to any collective bargaining agreement being in existence at the PBSO. 


Transcript of witness questions and answers omitted.

*  *  *

Analysis and Opinion 


As the moving party in this case, the Union had the burden of proof that the PBSO violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement as alleged in the grievance. In Johnston-Tombigbee Manufacturing Company, Inc. and Southern Council of Industrial Workers, 113 LA (BNA) 1015, 1020 (Howell, 2000), the arbitrator stated:


.... The general rule, followed by most arbitrators in non-disciplinary proceedings, is that the grieving party, typically the union, bears the initial burden of presenting sufficient evidence to prove its contention. It is therefore usually up to the union to demonstrate that the action taken by the management is inconsistent with some limitation, contractual or otherwise, in the labor agreement.


Arbitrator F. M. Ingle in Combustion Engineering Co., 9 LA (BNA) 515, explained: “The doctrine of burden of proof simply means that the party who asserts a claim or right against another party has the burden or responsibility of proving it.” That is true in the case at hand. In International Minerals & Chemicals Corporation, 62-1 ARB 8284, [P. 4074], Arbitrator Sears stated: 


[“]Burden of proof[“] really means that the party which has that burden must produce at the hearing MORE evidence than the party which does not have that burden. It is rather rare to find a discussion of burden of proof in the reported arbitration cases, except in discharge or disciplinary cases. However, the Arbitrator firmly believes that most arbitrators, at least subconsciously, are of the opinion that in contract interpretation cases, such as this, the grieving party has the burden of persuading the arbitrator that its position is the correct one. 


Thus, although burden of proof in arbitration has less impact than in a court of law, especially in contract interpretation cases, the Union in this case must convince the Arbitrator that the Company violated the Agreement and/or law. 


This arbitrator is mindful of the principles generally applied when the issues involve interpretation of provisions in collective bargaining agreements. In Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597 [34 LA (BNA) 569] (1960), the Supreme Court held that, ... “[A]n arbitrator is confined to interpretation and application of the collective bargaining agreement; he does not sit to dispense his own brand of industrial justice. He may of course look for guidance from many sources, yet his award is legitimate only so long as it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement.” ... 


The parties, in the instant case, included the Enterprise Wheel doctrine in the Contract. Article 36, Section 4, Paragraph 4, provides:  


The arbitrator shall not have the power to add to, subtract from, modify or alter the terms of this collective bargaining agreement in arriving at a decision of the issue or issues presented, and shall confine his or her decision solely to the interpretation or application of the agreement. The arbitrator shall not have the authority to determine any issues not submitted. 


In this case, the applicable Contract was the first one negotiated after the PBA was certified as the bargaining agent for the involved employees. A collective bargaining agreement is a limitation on management’s power to manage and direct the work force. In Powermatic/Houdaille, Inc., 63 LA (BNA) 1 (Andrews, 1974), the arbitrator said:  


It is now a well established generalization that employers, except to the extent limited by contract or statute, retain all power to manage a plant, make rules, and set working hours. This is so even if the agreement does not list all of the rights that have been retained by management or has no management rights clause at all. The collective bargaining agreement operates as a limitation upon the right of the employer to establish working conditions only to the extent that such conditions of employment are covered by the agreement. The pre-existing rights of the employer still continue as to all matters not covered in the agreement. If the agreement is completely silent about a matter, then the employer is free to make unilateral changes if such changes are not inconsistent with the provisions of the current agreement.... . 


See also, Saint Louis Symphony Society, 70 LA (BNA) 475 (Roberts, 1978) and Vacaville Unified School District, 71 LA (BNA) 1026 (Brisco, 1978). 


In Appalachian Regional Healthcare v. Local 14390, 245 F.3d 601 [166 LRRM 3011] (6th Cir. 2001), the court held that the agreement need not include provisions permitting management action on every conceivable employment matter; rather, on issues not discussed in the agreement, management retains discretion, citing United Steelworkers of Am. v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574 [34 LA (BNA) 561] (1960). 


Arbitrators have consistently held that the terms of a collective bargaining agreement are to be applied in a logical manner, consistent with the language, intent of the parties, and with the entire agreement. Cooper/T. Smith Stevedoring Co., 99 LA (BNA) 297, 304 (Massey, 1992). The collective bargaining agreement is to be construed not narrowly and technically, but broadly and so as to accomplish its evident aims. In Elkouri & Elkouri, How Arbitration Works, 6th Edition, p. 462, 463; Ruben, Editor-in-Chief, BNA, 1003, the concept of interpreting a contract as a whole is discussed as follows:  


The Restatement (Second) of Contracts comments:


Meaning is inevitably dependent on context. A word changes meaning when it becomes part of a sentence, the sentence when it becomes part of a paragraph. A longer writing similarly affects the paragraph.... Where the whole can be read to give significance to each part, that reading is preferred.... 


In the arbitral domain, numerous decisions have invoked this interpretative principle. One of the earliest stated:  


The primary rule in construing a written instrument is to determine, not alone from a single word or phrase, but from the instrument as a whole, the true intent of the parties, and to interpret the meaning of a questioned word, or part, with regard to the connection in which it is used, the subject matter and its relation to all other parts or provisions. 


In the years that followed, the concept that the disputed portions “must be read in light of the entire agreement” has received widespread acceptance. 


 Typical of arbitral thinking is the following:  


Sections or portions cannot be isolated from the rest of the agreement and given construction independently of the purpose and agreement of the parties as evidenced by the entire document.... The meaning of each paragraph and each sentence must be determined in relation to the contract as a whole. Citations omitted 


The authors also discuss Giving Effect to all Clauses and Words. “It is only when no reasonable meaning can be given to a word or clause, either from the context in which it is used or by examining the whole agreement, that it may be treated surplusage and declared to be inoperative.” How Arbitration Works, P. 464. 


The PBA urges the arbitrator to apply the rule of expressio unius est exclusio alterius (`The expression of one thing is the exclusion of another’) to Article 30 of the Contract. The Union argues that there is no claim that Kirschner was precluded from attendance at the Palm Beach County test site due to any of the three specific reasons. Therefore, Kirschner was ineligible to participate in the 2004 promotional process. This arbitrator has applied the rule before, however, he declines to do so in this case. To do so would lead to a harsh, absurd, and nonsensical result that would preclude employees on military leave from participating in the promotional exams, unless they were able to participate in Palm Beach County. 


In addition, reading the Contract as a whole, the Military Leave Policy, referred to in Article 13, must be considered along with Article 30, Section 5. Article 13, of the Contract, provides that the PBSO will apply the Military Leave Policy as stated in the PBSO General Orders. The policy clearly states that, “During periods of extended active duty, Sheriff’s Office personnel shall be entitled to preserve-promotional status-in accordance with the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).” 


Promotional status can only be preserved if there is an opportunity to take promotional tests. The PBA does not dispute that, prior to the existing collective bargaining agreement, employees in the military were permitted to take the promotional exam at the military base where they were serving. Stelling testified that this was in accordance with the Military Policy and SOP 305.01. The tests were administered by proctors at the military bases. 


The PBSO not only has a right to continue the Military Policy per Article 13, of the Contract, there is merit to the PBSO’s argument that it is obligated to do so by Article 35 of the Contract, and the USERRA. 


In Fink v. City of New York and New York City Fire Department, 129 F.Supp.2d 511 (E.D.N.Y. 2001), Fink alleged that defendants violated USERRA:  


 ... by intentionally discriminating against him because of his military service insofar as they failed to offer him a make-up promotional exam immediately upon his return from military service in 1994 or to provide him with appropriate study materials in 1997, when he was given a make-up promotional exam.... 129 F.Supp.2d at 513 


The court held that:  


In addition to requiring a restoration of employment and seniority for an employee on leave,-USERRA also prohibits an employer from denying employment benefits to a member of the armed services because of his military obligation. 38 U.S.C. §4311(a). Specifically, 38 U.S.C. §4311(a) provides that: 


[A] person who is a member of, applies to be a member of, performs, has performed, applies to perform, or has an obligation to perform service


in a uniformed service shall not be denied initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment by an employer on the basis of that membership, application for-membership, performance of service, application for service, or obligation.  Id. Under this portion of the statute, an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of the latter’s military service, which means, unlike in the usual Title VII context, that the employer must sometimes treat veterans differently from other employees in order to assure that they receive the same benefits as their co-workers.-Thus, as in this case, where a neutral employment policy provides that a promotional exam shall only be administered on a particular date to all employees,-it may constitute discrimination to refuse to allow veterans away on leave on the date in question to take a make-up exam upon their return from service.  129 F.Supp.2d at 518, 519 


 ... Fink missed the original date of the examination precisely because he was a veteran, and the entire point of USERRA is to prevent veterans from falling behind their co-workers or suffering adverse employment actions while they are away serving their country. Therefore, the defendants were under an obligation to give Fink his promotional exam immediately upon his return from duty.... 129 F.Supp.2d at 521 


... A policy that requires all persons, regardless of veteran status, to take their promotional exam on a given date and gives no opportunity for a make-up examination systematically discriminates against veterans....  129 F.Supp.2d at 522 


Since Article 30, of the Contract in this case, prohibits make-up promotional examinations, the only practical way to make promotional opportunities available to active duty employees, who cannot attend the Palm Beach County examination location, is to permit off-site exams at military sites under the direction of a proctor. This was the policy in 2002 and the existing Contract does not prohibit the continuation of the policy. Therefore, the arbitrator concludes that the PBSO did not violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the off-site administration of the promotional examination for Kirschner. 


Regarding other arguments presented by the PBA, the arbitrator is not convinced that Kirschner’s test score and assessment would have been any different had he taken the exams at an accredited university, a state-approved police academy, or at the Palm Beach County facilities. Calkins testified that he followed the instructions in administering the test as a proctor. 


The arbitrator also rejects the claim that the PBSO violated Florida Statutes Section 447.501(1)(a) and (b). The arrangement for Kirschner to take the exam off-site did not constitute direct negotiations with a bargaining unit employee in violation of said statute. 


The Union’s argument that Kirschner failed to meet the deadline for filing his application is not persuasive. E-mail is an acceptable means of communication. Kirschner’s application was filed by e-mail, prior to the deadline, followed by his mailing the original to Human Resources for the file. 


Kirschner’s testimony was corroborated by Calkins’ testimony, that Kirschner was on temporary duty assignment at the location where the test was administered. Kirschner’s required participation in the biannual security conference justified his request for an accommodation to take the promotional exam at his duty station. 




The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office did not violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement in administering the Lieutenant promotion examination off-site to Sgt. Michael Kirschner while he was on military leave. Therefore, the grievance is denied.