A motion to dismiss a mass grievance filed by more than 270 Division of Highways employees over the division’s alleged failure to implement a new pay schedule mandated by a 2017 law has been rejected by the state Public Employees Grievance Board.
That will allow the case to proceed to a Level 2 mediation hearing.
“The matter is now going to be set for mediation,” state Public Employees Union Local UE 170 field organizer Gordon Simmons said. “Should a settlement agreement not be reached, the employees intend to file an appeal requesting a hearing before one of the board’s administrative law judges for a final decision.”
Chief Administrative Law Judge Billie Thacker Catlett rejected motions by Highways attorneys to dismiss the case on the grounds the grievance had not been filed timely, that it did not state a claim for relief, and that the employees lack standing to file a claim.
More than 270 Highways employees filed the mass personnel grievance in March, contending that the division has failed to comply with a 2017 law directing Highways to address ongoing hiring and retention problems, in part, by developing a more competitive pay schedule.
According to the grievance, Highways submitted a proposal for substantial pay raises for bridge safety and maintenance workers, which the state Personal Board approved in December 2017, and in August 2018, Highways implemented a new pay schedule for the lowest pay grades, resulting in pay raises for about 130 of the more than 5,000 Highways employees.
In the motion to dismiss, Highways attorneys argued that the grievants had failed to file their compliant within 15 days of the event, as required under the law.
However, Catlett noted, “The Grievance Board has consistently recognized that…disputes alleging pay disparity are continuing violations which may be grieved within 15 days of the most recent occurrence, i.e., the issuance of a paycheck.”
Catlett also rejected Highways’ assertion that the grievants had failed to state a claim for relief, contending that the Grievance Board cannot direct the division to create a new pay plan.
“Grievants have made a proper allegation of discrimination under the grievance procedure,” Catlett responded, adding, “Grievants have a right to present their evidence and make arguments on their legal issues.”
As for Highways’ argument that the employees lacked standing to file the grievance, Catlett said, “Grievants are state employees who have alleged a wrongful action by their employer resulting in a disparity in pay. Their injury is concrete, actual, and could be remedied by an order of the Grievance Board awarding a pay raise should grievants prove they are entitled to same.”
Simmons said a date for mediation has not been set.