Human Resources

Q1: How do you think the arbitrator ruled?  Why?  What is the supporting evidence?   Vacation disagreement goes to the Arbitrator Facts: When Bruce Reaves quit his job at the end of January of a recent year, the personnel manager saw to it that his final check included all pay and allowances due as of his last day of work.

Management assumed that was the last they would see of this former employee, but seven months later—shortly before August 1 of that year—Stan showed up to collect his one week of vacation pay. The personnel manager said he was not due the vacation pay. Stan may have expected that response for he had a copy of the union contract with him, with sentences in the vacation pay clause underlined.

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“It says here that to be eligible for a week of vacation a man must have worked 100 days prior to August 1 of the vacation year,” he pointed out. “I finished my last vacation on August 10, and worked more than 100 days before I quit, so I’m entitled to the money.” “But that clause, and the reference to August 1, presupposes that an employee would still be on the payroll when the new vacation season rolls around,” the personnel manager explained.

“Maybe that’s what you presupposed, not what the union presupposed. I checked with the union and they agree with me that I’ve got the money coming to me.” As Stan was no longer an employee, he could not file a grievance directly. The union, however, filed one in his behalf, and a few months later the union summoned an arbitrator to rule on how the following contract language applied to Stan’s case:

CONTRACT LANGUAGE: ARTICLE XVII—VACATIONS: Employees to be eligible for one week’s vacation with pay shall have worked 100 working days prior to August 1 of the vacation year. An employee’s vacation pay is to be based upon the straight time average earned for the months of January, February, and March or February, March, and April of the vacation year.

The period selected to be on a departmental basis. Employees on leave of absence due to injury, sickness, or other need for medical care shall be considered as working during such leaves of absence for purposes of computing vacations. The company’s chief arguments were:

1.         The reference to August 1 means that only those on the rolls as employees on that date are entitled to vacation pay, provided they also meet the 100-day requirement.

2.         According to union interpretation, a man who quits after working 100 days after his last vacation can still get vacation money the following year. This was not the intention of the negotiators.

3.         The fact that the rate of vacation pay is based upon earnings during the first three or four months of the year reinforces management’s judgment that a man can’t quit in January and still collect for a vacation. The union’s answer was:

1.         According to management interpretation, a man who quits or dies at the end of July would not be entitled to any vacation money, no matter how many days he worked since the last vacation. It is not believable that the negotiators could have intended such a result. 2.         The August 1 date is merely the cutoff point for meeting the 100-day requirement. It doesn’t mean that a man who already qualified for vacation money has to be employed on that date. 3.         The reference to January through April is just a convenient way of computing the amount of vacation pay. It has nothing to do with eligibility. We will have no trouble determining the amount of money Stan is supposed to receive.

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