Court: County Must Honor Police Union Arbitration Agreement
Maryland Court of Appeals reverses lower court decision on a grievance filed over changes to health insurance costs.
As many as 400 retired police department employees could see a reduction in their health insurance costs and be due a refund for charges since 2007.
A state Court of Appeals ruling Monday effectively affirmed arbitration and a Baltimore County Circuit Court decision on the case that dates back to 2007. [A copy of the court rulling is attached to this article.]
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, which represents county police officers, filed a grievance five years ago after the county increased the costs of health insurance for employees who retired between Feb. 1, 1992 and June 30, 2007.
On July 1, 2007, the county changed its share of retiree health insurance costs from an 85-15 split with retirees to an 84-16 percentage.
The union argued that its contract with the county locked in an individual's share of the insurance costs based on what was in place at the time of retirement until the employee became eligible for Medicare.
The county argued that it was under no obligation to take the union's grievance to arbitration because the contract year-to-year had expired.
The judges ruled that the language in the agreement was broad and did not exclude taking grievances from an expired agreement to arbitration.
"We agree with the Circuit Court’s decision to leave undisturbed the arbitrator’s findings in this case," the judges wrote in its 37-page ruling. "The fact that the [contract] has expired does not mean the County had no duty to arbitrate disputes arising out of that [contract]. A dispute may be arbitrable after the expiration of the underlying agreement, if the agreement contained a broad arbitration clause and the rights that are the subject of the dispute accrued or vested during the life of the agreement."
Cole Weston, president of the union, said the ruling will decrease health insurance costs for as many as 400 retirees represented by the police union.
"The county has to restore the subsidy for people who retired between Feb. 1, 1992 and June 30, 2007 to what it was at the time they retired—that's phase one," Weston said. "Phase two is that the county will have to refund the difference between that rate and what the county has been charging since July 1, 2007.
A county spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.