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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2005

Fostoria asks high court to intervene in layoff issue


COLUMBUS - The city of Fostoria argued yesterday before the Ohio Supreme Court that its three-year fight over the layoffs of two police dispatchers long back on the job extends beyond the back pay an arbitrator said is owed them.

"What about the next case?" the city's attorney, Eugene Nevada, asked the court. "What about the bargaining contract that covers 15 or 100?"

At issue in the case is whether a single laid-off dispatcher, Louanne Grine, could alone file a grievance that would affect an entire bargaining unit, which in this case included three dispatchers.

Ms. Grine and co-worker Tim Hatfield were laid off in January, 2002, as part of the city's plan to eliminate a $1.5 million shortfall in its budget. A third was fired for allegedly shredding documents.

A labor arbitrator ultimately ruled in Ms. Grine's favor, determining the city violated the contract by using police officers to substitute for dispatchers more than the allowable four hours per eight-hour shift. The arbitrator ordered the city to reinstate not only Ms. Grine, but also Mr Hatfield, who did not file his own grievance.

Both were to receive full back pay.

Seneca County Common Pleas Court and the 6th District Court of Appeals upheld the ruling as it pertained to Ms. Grine, but found the contract did not expressly authorize the arbitrator to include Mr. Hatfield in a ruling he had not officially sought.

Ms. Grine and Mr. Hatfield are back at work, but neither has received the back pay ordered.

Larry Farley, attorney for the Ohio Patrolman's Benevolent Association, argued that the city always treated the case as multiple grievances and that Mr. Hatfield had attended the arbitration proceedings even though his name wasn't on the grievance.

"The entire bargaining unit had been laid off," he said.

"In this case that was three, but it was still the entire group, so the action taken by the city was in violation of the contract for all the members of that bargaining unit."

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