Last week, the Appeals Court issued a decision, State Police Association of Massachusetts v. Alben (19-P-210), regarding whether police officers were entitled to overtime pay for detail work contrary to the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
As noted in the decision, the Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort) contracted with the Massachusetts State Police for police service at the airport. The State Police collective bargaining agreement included a provision regarding detail work and overtime work. The officers were paid directly by MassPort for overtime work (this has since changed) and were compensated the contractual detail rate for overtime worked at the airport, not the statutory overtime rate.
After receiving a letter from the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division which authorized the plaintiffs to “pursue this matter through the civil lawsuit immediately”, plaintiffs filed the complaint. Plaintiffs argued that the State Police and MassPort violated M.G.L. c. 149 § 30C “by failing to pay State troopers time and one-half their normal hourly rate for ‘overtime detail work.’” The Superior Court dismissed the claims without prejudice, holding that the parties should submit the claims as grievance to arbitration.
Plaintiffs then filed for arbitration pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator ruled that the grievance was not substantively arbitrable and stated that the State Police Colonel had the “nondelegable authority to assign State troopers to detail work as opposed to overtime work.” The arbitrator also decided that he did not have the authority to change the detail rate, as that was a binding decision made by the parties.
Then, plaintiffs moved to reinstate the claim. The Superior Court permitted the motion and granted the State Police’s motion to dismiss and MassPort’s motion for summary judgment. The Superior Court held that the parties’ collective bargaining agreement took precedent over contrary provisions of M.G.L. c. 149 § 30C.
The plaintiffs appealed the case to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. First, the Appeals Court found that plaintiffs did not have standing because M.G.L. c. 149 § 30C does not provide a right of private action. Second, the Appeals Court held that even if plaintiffs had standing, their claims would not succeed. Plaintiffs claimed that M.G.L. c. 149 § 30C requires the overtime rate of one and one-half time. The court found that because M.G.L. c. 150E provides that “‘the terms of a collective bargaining agreement prevail over contrary terms in certain enumerated statutes…’” and M.G.L. c. 149 § 30C is one of the enumerated statutes, that the plaintiffs were entitled to the rate pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, the Appeals Court found the statutory language of M.G.L. 150E to be clear and unambiguous, holding that the parties’ collective bargaining agreement supersedes M.G.L. c. 149 § 30C. The Appeals Court deferred to the arbitrator’s conclusion that the detail rate of pay applies, not the statutory overtime rate.
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This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.