Edmonton police officer grieves after part-time transfer denied

Bona fide requirement for full-time school officers: EPS

A long-time constable with the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) was unhappy with many unsuccessful attempts to be transferred to a part-time position and she eventually grieved her treatment.
Const. Jody Coughlan had been with the EPS since 2001, when in December 2013, her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. 
She was given a medical leave of absence to deal with it and Coughlan’s own medical issues.
In May 2015, Coughlan was ready to return to work but only in a part-time capacity. In August, she was transferred into a series of 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions. 
Meanwhile, Coughlan requested her name be placed onto the succession list for the School Resource Officer (SRO) unit. She was placed onto the list and once a position became available, Coughlan was eligible to join.
At the time, Edmonton had 26 SRO constables who were responsible for 31 local schools. SROs established a visible presence in the schools on an outreach basis to prevent youth-related crimes.
In October, Coughlan was on the list with a normal expiration date of one year later. In November, she was advised that three full-time vacancies would be available in January 2016.
However, Coughlan wasn’t ready for full-time work.
On May 18, 2016, Edmonton Police Association (EPA) president Maurice Brodeur said that Coughlan would be ready for part-time work in the fall.
The EPS responded that there were no part-time positions in the SRO unit, but it would accommodate Coughlan in another unit.
The association filed a grievance on May 30 and alleged that the EPS failed to accommodate Coughlan’s family-status needs. Coughlan said she was only able to work on Wednesdays, Thursdays and half-days on Fridays, due to her needing to care for her children. Their father (who shared custody with Coughlan) looked after them the other days. 
In July, another FTE was offered to Coughlan in the SRO unit, but she declined it. After more positions became available, Coughlan asked Denis Jubinville, HR division superintendent, why there were no part-time SRO positions. 
“Upon review, it appears the matter in question relates to the determination by Investigative Support Branch that the SRO positions are not available on a part-time basis,” said Jubinville in a Sept. 12 email response.
After a back-and-forth Jubinville responded: “The Investigative Support Branch has determined that the SRO positions, for bona fide operational reasons, cannot be accommodated on a part-time basis.”
The SRO unit officers must be dedicated to the position on a full-time basis, testified Sgt. Em Chan, due to potential communication problems if more than one officer was assigned to a school and it would be best for the at-risk youth to have one officer per school.
Coughlan’s inclusion on the succession list was extended for another year until Sept. 30, 2016, while the EPS promised to find a suitable part-time position for her. 
Arbitrator D.P. Jones dismissed the grievance. “I am satisfied on the evidence that the SRO position needs to be done by a full-time person, even where that person is responsible for two schools, in order to meet the need for availability, continuity and fluidity. These bona fide requirements could not be met by a stand-alone part-time position where the SRO was only available on Mondays, Tuesdays and alternate Fridays. The intermittent and fixed nature of her schedule would not provide a school (even a school sharing half of a full-time SRO who covered two schools) with the necessary availability, continuity and fluidity.”
The employer did not discriminate against Coughlan due to her family status, said Jones. 
“Accordingly, even if prima facie discrimination on the basis of family status had been established, in my judgment the EPS has established the need for SRO positions to be done full-time, and that it would have been an undue hardship for the EPS to accommodate Const. Coughlan’s request to work as a part-time SRO on Mondays, Tuesdays and alternate Fridays.”
Reference: Edmonton Police Service and Edmonton Police Association. D.P. Jones — arbitrator. Geoff Hope, Dana Adams for the employer. Dan Scott for the employee. Feb. 4, 2019. 2019 CarswellAlta 250

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