Holding: Management violated a past practice when it denied overtime pay to three officers who were injured on duty and were not released from the hospital until after their shift had ended.


Arbitration Award



Village of Romeoville, Illinois


Metropolitan Alliance of Police


121 LA (BNA) 1797

FMCS Case No. 05/00563


January 9, 2006, Decided

March 29, 2006, Reported


Aaron S. Wolff, Arbitrator, selected by parties through procedures of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service 


Background Facts 


The Village of Romeoville [the “Village” or “Employer”] and the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, Chapter #6 [the “Union” or “MAP”] submitted to arbitration a grievance, dated November 11, 2003, filed on behalf of Patrol Officers Fred Linklater, Sandra Dreher and Alex Escobedo. The grievance asserts that they were improperly denied overtime pay when they were injured on duty, went to a hospital emergency room for treatment and remained there until after their shift was over. 


The material facts are not in dispute. The agreed issue is:  


Did the employer violate Section 11.3 of the collective bargaining agreement when it refused to compensate the employees for their medical treatment which occurred after the conclusion of their shift; and if so, what's the appropriate remedy? 


Section 11.3 provides as follows:  


Section 11.3 Overtime Pay   

Officers covered by this agreement shall be paid one and one-half (11/2) times their normal straight-time hourly rate of pay for all authorized, scheduled and required time of work in excess of forty (40) hours in a workweek. 


Patrol Officer Linklater, who was hired in August 1985, testified as follows: On November 6, 2003 he was working that day with the other two grievants on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift.1 They responded to a call at a house where a subject was laying on the kitchen floor. The fire department was also there to take the person to the hospital. Later he was told that the person had been exposed to cyanide in the house and was concerned that he and the other officers were potentially exposed to cyanide. He called Lt. Turvey and suggested it would probably be a good idea for them to be checked for exposure and, after checking on it, Lt. Turvey gave them permission to go to Edwards Hospital in Naperville.2 At that time they were still on duty. While in the ER they were given some breathing treatment and blood tests were taken. Officer Linklater was not released by an ER doctor until 1:45 a.m. on November 7. 


After his release, Officer Linklater, who had a squad car that he drove home at night, returned to the police station to fill out his “Daily Activity Report” [the “DAR”]. Among other things, the DAR describes the officer's activities during the day and the time spent on them. On his DAR, grievant noted he worked 11.0 hours, including five at the hospital. He claimed 3 hours of overtime, including the 15 minutes he spent in going to the station instead of directly home. Theoretically, he could have signed off by radio and filled out his DAR on the next day, but “they want you to do it daily.” The Xerox copy of the DAR has a “post-it note” on it that says: “Fred—You do not get paid O.T. for hospital time. You only 1500-2300 8 hrs.” [sic] Grievant did not receive the claimed three hours of overtime. 


On November 7, grievant further stated, the hospital asked him to come back for a “follow-up.” He went there at about 1:30 p.m. after getting permission from Lt. Lucchesi. Then he worked his regular shift, 3-11 p.m., put in for overtime for that follow-up visit and was paid for it. 


Officer Linklater also testified that in 1998 or 1999 he was bitten by a dog while on the job and went to a hospital where he remained for about four hours and until after his shift ended. He requested and was paid overtime for his time in the hospital after his shift ended. 


Officer John Ferdinardo, who was hired as a Patrol Officer in July 1990 and became a Patrol Sergeant in June 2005 [sergeants are also in the bargaining unit], is a former president and current secretary of the Union. He testified that in 1993 or 1994, while on duty he injured his leg while pursuing a car thief. After receiving permission, he went to an ER for medical treatment. When he was released after his shift ended, he went to the station to return his squad car and radio and put in a claim for about one hour of overtime for which he was paid. It was his understanding that no matter how long he was in the hospital after his shift ended, it would be compensable time so long as he was not admitted to the hospital. After such admission, it was always his understanding that he would no longer be compensated by the Village for his time. 


Patrol Officer Michael Ramaglia was hired in April 1987 and served as Union president for six years until the current May 1, 2002—April 30 2006 Contract was negotiated.3 He testified that approximately 10 years ago he and Police Chief Andrew Barto had a conversation in the latter's office about an officer who had been denied overtime for being at the hospital on a Workman's Comp injury. Asked what was said, he replied:  


A Without quoting it verbatim, it was at what point do we stop paying the officers for being at the hospital. And my response was when they are admitted to the hospital. 


If they stay there after their shift eight hours, you pay eight hours overtime. If they are admitted, then they are in the Workman's Comp category so they are getting their eight hours a day for being in the hospital. 


Q Why did you respond that way? 


A  Because the chief was saying that we weren't paying. 


Q I understand. Had that been the practice in the past or had that been procedure? 


A Yes, up until that point everyone when they went to the hospital, they were paid their overtime for seeking treatment. 4 


Q Now, did this officer ultimately get paid time and a half?


A I want to say, yes, but like I said, I can't remember who it was. 


As for himself, Officer Ramaglia testified that in 2001 he, Officer Hess and Sgt. Byrne, went to a house fire where they suffered smoke inhalation and went by car and ambulance to a hospital for treatment. When he was treated and released, but not admitted to the hospital, after his shift ended, he returned to the station to turn in his squad car keys. The next day he filled out his DAR and requested overtime for the period he was at the hospital after his shift ended; and he was paid for it. 


Another grievant, Police Officer Sandra Dreher who was hired in January 1987, testified that on November 6, after getting permission, she also went with Officer Linklater to Edwards' hospital ER for medical treatment due to the potential contact with strychnine and was not released until after her shift ended. [While Office Linklater said it was cyanide, both are highly poisonous]. She returned to the station to drop off her squad car and radio.5 At the same time she filled out a DAR and put in a claim for 2.8 hours of overtime which was denied.6  


Officer Dreher also testified that in about 1997 she and Officer Marty Hess were first responders at a house fire. After they went in to look for persons in the house, they suffered smoke inhalation. After getting permission from the police sergeant on duty, they were taken by fire department paramedics in an ambulance to a hospital in Joliet for treatment. She was released after her shift ended and got a ride to the station to drop off her radio. She put in a claim for overtime and was paid for it. 


The Villages' sole witness was its Chief of Police, Andrew Barto, who was hired in 1972 and has held every rank: patrolman, sergeant, lieutenant, deputy chief and chief in 1991. He testified that the Village has “previously paid employees for hospital stays [emergency treatment] after their shift when they were hurt on their shift.” He heard the testimony of the officers concerning such payments and said their testimony in this respect was “correct.” He said that the payments were made on the basis of the HR [Human Resource] department's advice that the “Workman's Comp law” required the Village to make such “payment after their tour of duty ended when they were injured.” 7 But the Chief did not agree with that opinion and questioned it “several times.” He remembered having a conversation about “this issue” with Union president Ramaglia as well as two of his predecessors. Continuing, he said:  


Q Now, you heard Officer Ramaglia testify that in that conversation there was some discussion about paying the officer up until the time he was admitted to the hospital. Do you recall any conversation like that? 


A Yeah, I think in the gist of the total conversation, my belief that at some point Mike mentioned we are paying them till they are admitted, and my response is when do we stop payment. I think that probably was his response. That's what I believe was the conversation. 


Q Did you ever come to any agreement with the Union as to when payment should occur for an officer that was taken to the emergency room? 


A There was never an agreement. My position has always remained the same. 


The Arbitrator: What was that? 


By Mr. Sakellariou: 


Q And that position is what? 


A That at the end of the tour of duty, stop, because Workman's Comp now kicked in and this was now a Workmen's Comp issue. 


And that Workman's Comp did not require us to pay overtime for the period of time that they were in the hospital. That was my position with the Union presidents. 


Q All right. And it was—again, it was human resources that was requiring the payment in their opinion based on the Worker's Comp law? 


A Payroll and HR was doing the same job over across the street, and they were dictating the policy in saying that they believed that Workman's Comp was required by the Workman's Comp Act, they were required that we had to pay our officers. And my position was, again, no, we don't have to.


Q Now, prior to the incident that gave rise to this grievance, was that issue ever revisited with human resources? 


A Yeah, it had gotten to the point where I finally had made the decision, and I talked to other chiefs in saying I have got a real issue. 


The Arbitrator: Other chiefs of other communities? 


The Witness: Yes, other chiefs in the Will County area. And I host a chiefs' meeting and it was one of the issues that I raised, it was just a group discussion. Having taken some of that conversation, I had made the decision that we needed another opinion here, that this was not correct. I picked up the phone. I called Mr. Sakellariou and I said to [him] * * *, just so I know the law, I asked him to research this issue of looking at the Workman's Comp Act, were we required to pay officers who had sustained an injury or believed they needed to be checked and stayed beyond their tour of duty, * * * does the Workman's Comp Act require us to pay them. 


Mr. Sakellariou responded after he did the research, he said, no, we are not entitled, they are not entitled to that payment of overtime.


Continuing, the Chief said that after getting this opinion he made “a phone call to the Workman's Comp lawyers and received a similar opinion.” 8  


However, since 1991, when he became Chief, and up until this grievance, he agreed that it was “fair to say” that “the police department paid officers that were required to work over by staying in the hospital other than being admitted [to the hospital].” He did not know of any officer being paid by the department for time after the officer was admitted to a hospital. 


The Chief further testified:  


Q And so is it fair or not fair to say that at least when you had the conversation with Officer Ramaglia that the understanding was that officers would be paid until they were admitted to the hospital, at which time they go to Worker's Comp? 


A That was Mike's position, it wasn't my position. 


The Arbitrator: What did you say when he said his understanding was that they were getting paid overtime up until they were admitted to the hospital? What response, if any, did you make? 


The Witness: My question was when does it stop. And I think that's his response, when they got admitted. 


The Arbitrator: What did you say after that, if anything?  


The Witness: My position was once again— 


The Arbitrator: Not your position but what you told him? 


The Witness: I told him my position was and is that it's a Workman's Comp issue.  


The Arbitrator: This goes back ten years? 


The Witness: Oh, my gosh, it goes back further than that. 


The Arbitrator: But notwithstanding that conversation, you have paid employees overtime when they went to the hospitals and were there after their shift ended? 


The Witness: That's correct. 


The Chief added that the basis for these overtime payments “was the misinterpretation by human resources of the Worker's Comp requirements.”  




In its post-hearing brief, the Village of Romeoville contends that “no contractual provision or practice requires compensation for medical treatment outside a regular shift.” Its argument begins with a quote from F. & E. Elkouri, How Arbitration Works. (6th Ed. 2003; A. Ruben, Editor-in-Chief), p. 608:  


“In the absence of a written agreement, past practice, to be binding on both parties, must be (1) unequivocal; (2) clearly enunciated and acted upon; and (3) readily ascertainable over a reasonable period of time as a fixed, and established practice accepted by both parties.” 


This requires, the Village says, a “mutuality of agreement.” Continuing, it says:  


Chief Barto testified that he never mutually agreed that the Village had an obligation to pay employees overtime under any agreement with the union, via the written contract or practice, for time spent receiving treatment after the end of a regularly scheduled work shift. His statement during the course of the hearing was that he had always taken the position that the Employer, the Village of Romeoville, was under no obligation to compensate employees for time spent for treatment subsequent to end of a shift. 


The Village further holds that there is nothing in the Contract that requires payment of overtime under the circumstances revealed here. Rather, it says: "[the] sole reason that overtime may have been paid in the past is due to a unilateral mistake made on behalf of the Human Resources Department of the Village in believing that it was obligated to pay overtime under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act." 


Concluding on this point, the Village argues: 9   


This unilateral mistake, the absence of any argument that the contract speaks to this issue or is ambiguous, and the Chief's consistent denial of the need to pay overtime all evidence a clear lack of mutuality or meeting of the minds between the Employer and the Union, and without mutuality a past practice cannot be established. 


Other arguments advanced by the Village are these:  


[1] “the officers were not required to return to the station after medical treatment to perform any work for the Employer.” 


[2] “To Permit the Payment of Compensation for Time Spent Seeking Medical Treatment Would Usurp the Authority of the Employer to Determine the Compensable Time to be Worked by its Employees.” 


In this respect the Village relies on its management rights clause to control the work time for which it compensates its employees and on the Chief's 1996 General Order 3-103 which does not require officers to seek treatment for an illness or injury which occurs during their shift. 


In its post-hearing brief, the Union contends that the overtime payments were authorized under §11.3 of the Contract which is “clear and unambiguous.” Even if the Contract is not clear, the past practice of making such payments is clear and an established past practice cannot be unilaterally changed by a party. An established past practice is one that is unequivocal, clearly enunciated and acted upon and readily ascertainable over a reasonable period of time.10 Such practice becomes an implied term or condition of the Contract and the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act [5 ILCS §315/7] requires an employer to bargain before a contract term or condition can be modified.11  


After careful review of the record and the contentions of the parties, I find that this grievance has merit and must be sustained. 


The burden of establishing a binding past practice rests on the party asserting it. The Union has carried its burden here. The record overwhelmingly shows that for more than a decade, whenever an officer has need for medical attention during his/her shift and obtains permission to seek and obtains emergency treatment at an approved hospital, and that treatment continues after the end of his/her regular shift hours, the officer has been paid overtime for the hours spent in treatment after the shift's end, provided the employee has not actually been admitted to the hospital as a patient.12 A past practice involves a “course of conduct” that has “longevity and repetition” and “acceptability.” R. Mittenthal, Past Practice and the Administration of Collective Bargaining Agreements (Proceedings of the 14th Annual Meeting, National Academy of Arbitrators; BNA, 1961), pp. 30, 32 [also printed in 59 Mich. L. Rev. 1017 (1961)]. These qualities have all been shown here. 


Acceptability does not require verbal or written agreement. Mutuality of agreement is demonstrated by implication: repeated acceptance of the practice over a reasonable period of time.13 Here, the Chief said, he was aware of the practice for more than a decade and that during that time period he told Union presidents that he did not agree with it. While he may not have verbally agreed with it, the admitted fact is that for a long period of time he permitted it over his claimed stated objection. In short, he and the Village acquiesced in, and thereby accepted the practice repeatedly for over a decade. It then became an implied term or condition of the Contract and could not be altered unilaterally. If it is to be changed, it must be done at the bargaining table.14 


Other arguments of the Village are unavailing. The Village's reliance on U.S. Industrial Chemical, supra, is misplaced and actually supports the Union here. In that case Arbitrator McGury observed [47 LA at 654]: “If responsible representatives of the Company and Union had a discussion on the problem [the proper rate of pay], and after disagreeing, the Company continued to pay the higher rate, a binding past practice could be found.” Here, the Chief had such discussions with responsible Union representatives over many years and, although he then expressed disagreement with the practice, the practice was continued by the Village over a long period of time, thereby evolving into a binding one. 


Nor does the Village's reliance on General Order 3-103 give it support. This February 1996 Order says nothing about pay for employees who sustain on-duty injuries. On the other hand, it “encourages all personnel to seek medical attention for all injuries sustained * * *”including emergency room services at any of four approved medical facilities. 


The Village also contends that the practice would allow an emergency room doctor to determine how long an employee should remain in the ER and thereby deprive management of its right to control the compensation of its employees beyond their regular shift. The Village suggests that this is a “usurpation, by a third party, of the Employer's fundamental right to control the work time for which it compensates its employees.” This might be a good argument to limit the practice at the bargaining table, but it cannot defeat in arbitration the established existence of the practice. Moreover, the four medical facilities to which employees are authorized to go for emergency treatment are those determined by the Village. If there were any evidence that doctors or police officers were delaying their treatment in these ERs [and here there is absolutely no such evidence], the Village has it in its power to correct it. 




For the reasons set forth in the Opinion, which Opinion is incorporated by reference in this Award, the grievance is sustained and the overtime claims shall be paid. 


The Arbitrator will retain jurisdiction for sixty (60) days to resolve any dispute, now unforeseen, as to the remedy. 




1 Hereafter, all dates are in 2003 unless otherwise stated. 


2 No ER is available in Romeoville. 


3 He is a signatory of the Contract which was not finally executed until about May 22, 2003. 


4 Although this conversation was long ago, he said he remembered it “clearly.” 


5 The radios are left at the station so they can be re-charged. Officers who don't have “take-home” squad cars return to the station to pick up their own cars to get home. Those officers who are assigned take-home cars have rechargers at home and recharge their radios themselves. 


6 Her DAR, as well as grievant Escobedo's DAR have affixed to them the same kind and wording of the post-it note placed on Linklater's DAR. 


7 He said that the Payroll and HR departments were “dictating the policy” under their belief that the Workman's Comp Act “required that we had to pay our officers.” 


8 The Chief later indicated that this opinion was obtained, at his request, by the HR department. The opinion was in writing, but not offered into evidence. The several opinions the Chief testified about were received “very close to the time of this [November 6] incident” or to the time of the grievance, but one may have been obtained before and one after the grievance was filed. The Chief did not discuss the opinions with the Union prior to the filing of the grievance; and also indicated that the opinions were received after the grievance was filed. 


9 It cites U.S. Industrial Chemicals Company, 47 LA (BNA) 651, 654 (1966) for the proposition that: “an erroneous administrative procedure by one department, though carried on for ten years, did not bind the company as a practice where no rational basis for the procedure was shown.” 


10 Citing: City of Kansas City, Kansas, 104 LA (BNA) 710, 716 (1995); City of Springfield, Illinois, 1991 WL 716783 (AAA #51 390 0398 90 B, 1991); and F. &E. Elkouri, How Arbitration Works, (4th Ed. 1985), p. 439. 


11 The Union also asserts that General Order 3-103 does not and could not overcome the practice. 


12 It is undisputed that after formal admission to a hospital for an on-duty injury, the employee is covered and paid by Worker's Compensation. 


13 See F.& E. Elkouri, How Arbitration Works, (6th Ed. 2003: A. Ruben; Editor-in-Chief), pp. 608-09. 


14 Such opportunity will arise soon since the present Contract expires on April 30, 2006.