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Police Unions Sue City Over Sick Leave During Pandemic

The Dayton, Ohio, city manager issued an order last month that allows the city to require employees who use sick leave to provide a doctor’s note or medical certification to justify their absence and return to work.

by Cornelius Frolik, Dayton Daily News, Ohio / July 13, 2020
AP

(TNS) -- Dayton’s police and fire unions have sued the city claiming it has violated agreements that suspended some sick leave requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein issued an order last month that allows the city to require employees who use sick leave to provide a doctor’s note or medical certification to justify their absence and return to work.

Dickstein’s order says the city is experiencing significant sick leave usage that has hurt essential operations.

But the police and fire unions say the city cannot force their members to comply with these requirements because they were waived as part of negotiated agreements that last until at least until late summer.

On March 31, the city entered into an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 44 that made some temporary changes to the union’s contract, according to a lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

The MOU removed a requirement in the police union’s contract that says employees must provide a doctor’s certificate for “repeated” sick leave use or absences of more than three days, with a few exceptions.

About a week later, the International Association of Firefighters Local 136 agreed to a MOU that says sick leave by fire personnel use will not require medical certification, also with a few exceptions, according to copies of the documents filed as part of the lawsuit.

The fire union’s MOU also eliminated a requirement that its members who use sick leave must get a doctor’s note before they return to work and submit a medical certification form soon after they are back on the job, the documents state.

The MOUs were set to expire when the city’s state of emergency related to the COVID-19 threat ends or on Sept. 15.

But on June 30, Dickstein issued an emergency order that re-institutes the requirements for medical certification and doctors’ notes for sick leave.

Dickstein’s order says the city’s state of emergency declaration provides additional powers to the city manager that she is exercising to protect lives and property and minimize the operations of local government.

Her order says that the city is reinstating its personnel policy that may require employees to complete medical certification forms when they are absent for sick leave.

But the police and fire unions claim the city violated their MOUs and they filed separate grievances.

Earlier this month, the FOP and IAFF filed a joint lawsuit against Dayton’s city manager, mayor and the city commission seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction to block enforcement of Dickstein’s order, while the grievances head to arbitration.

Requests for comment sent to the FOP, the IAFF and their attorney were not immediately returned. City officials declined comment, saying the city does not discussion ongoing litgiation.

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©2020 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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