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Palmerton officer files grievance over doctor’s note

Another police grievance has been filed against Palmerton, this time on behalf of an officer who has been directed to obtain a doctor’s note.

As part of the grievance sent on Sunday from patrolman Dane O’Brien to borough police Chief Tim Kromer, O’Brien said his concern is related to the request for a doctor’s note for his sick leave on Jan. 23 per Kromer’s bulletin attached for reference from borough Manager Autumn Canfield.

“It has come to my attention that, despite three other officers having utilized a comparable amount of sick leave without being subject to the same requirement, I have been directed to obtain a doctor’s note,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said the bulletin received only specifies this request, but not why this action is being sought.

“While I am committed to complying with the policies and procedures of our law enforcement agency, I find it important to bring attention to what appears to be a lack of consistency in the application of these protocols,” he said.

O’Brien said that in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Palmerton Police Benevolent Association and Borough of Palmerton, “the request for a doctor’s note can only be implemented if an officer exercises three days or more of consecutive sick leave, or if the borough feels that sick time is being abused.

“Since neither three days or more of sick leave was used and/or other officers in the department have utilized the same amount (of) time, neither applies. In the spirit of fairness, I am willing to provide the requested doctor’s note, pending the understanding that the borough will cover my overtime rate to attend the appointment to obtain necessary documentation and any financial burdens that may born from this requirement despite the sick day utilized was nearly two weeks ago and is only now being requested.”

“I believe that addressing this issue not only ensures equitable treatment but also promotes transparency and trust within our organization. I trust that a comprehensive review of this matter will take place, and any decisions made will be in accordance with uniform standards applied to all officers and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

O’Brien added, “thank you for your attention to this grievance, and I look forward to a resolution that upholds fairness and consideration of the financial implications involved.”

Canfield declined to comment Tuesday morning because she said she considers it a personnel issue.

Last month, the Palmerton Police Benevolent Association filed a grievance against the Palmerton Borough Personnel Committee on behalf of an officer who it says was denied overtime pay.

The benevolent association said that grievance was in reference to the borough’s failure to pay an officer their overtime rate working overtime outside of their regular scheduled shift as defined in the collective bargaining agreement.

Palmerton Benevolent Association claims that grievance is in connection with a clear violation of the bargaining agreement effective from Jan. 1, 2024, to Dec. 31, 2026.

The grievance points to a specific incident involving officer Derek Koch, who was denied overtime pay contrary to the stipulations of the CBA.

The incident in question occurred on Jan. 6 when Koch was scheduled to work a regularly scheduled shift after previously working an extra shift on Dec. 31 (a holiday) out of the context of his normal work schedule.

According to the agreement, any hours worked in excess of the regular 10-hour shift 40-hour workweek, including attendance at required training sessions, participation in judicial, legislative, or administrative proceedings, and associated transportation times, must be compensated at a rate of one-and-a-half-times the officer’s hourly rate.

“Despite these clear contractual terms, officer Koch did not receive his lawfully earned overtime compensation for working 50 hours in a 40-hour work week,” the benevolent association stated in the grievance. “It has come to our attention that the failure to pay the requisite overtime was due to a directive from the personnel committee, which erroneously interpreted ‘hours worked’ in a manner inconsistent with both the letter and the spirit of the CBA as ‘hour worked’ being specifically defined computing how you earn your overtime for job assignments.”

The association said the contractual language specifically defines “overtime,” which shall be work in excess of his regular 10-hour shift, or 40 hours per week.

The association maintains that officer Koch’s time worked on Jan. 6 was beyond his regularly scheduled hours and should have been computed as overtime, irrespective of any time off taken during the same pay week.

The association requests:

• Full payment of the owed overtime amount to officer Koch, including any additional compensation due as a result of the delay in the payment.

• A written acknowledgment of the mistake and assurance that future overtime calculations will adhere to the stipulations of the bargaining to prevent similar occurrences.

“We expect the Palmerton Borough Personnel Committee to address this grievance promptly and to comply fully with the terms of the CBA,” the police association stated. “Failure to resolve this mater in a timely and satisfactory manner will compel the Palmerton Police Benevolent Association to consider further action to protect the rights of our members.”

The grievance asked for a written response within the time frame specified in the bargaining agreement.

“We are prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue to ensure that officer Koch and all officers are treated fairly and that the terms of our agreement are respected.”

Canfield declined to comment on that grievance as well because she said she considers it a personnel issue.