Retired library employee collecting sick leave gratuity payout not eligible for wage increase

Employee receiving the payout considered retired: Arbitrator

In 2010, the Toronto Public Library Board and the Toronto Public Library Workers Union Local 4948 adopted a new short-term disability plan called IIP. New hires would fall under IIP while existing employees were given the option of continuing with the old sick leave accrual plan or transferring to the new option.

Employees who did transfer were then given the option of having their accrued but “capped” sick leave credits made available for use in supplementing any potential shortfalls in coverage under the IIP or receiving an immediate payout of the credits.

Raymond Hickman chose to make his credits available for use in supplementing coverage under the IIP. Nearing his last day before retirement, Hickman was given the choice of taking the sick leave gratuity in the form of a single payment on Sept. 30, 2014 — his last day of work — or in the form of salary continuance from Sept. 30 until the end of the period to which the value of the sick pay gratuity related which, in his case, was six months.

Hickman chose the latter option, which mean his “official retirement date” would be March 31, 2015, the end of the payment period.

During that period of sick leave gratuity payout, an across-the-board wage increase took effect under the new collective agreement. Due to the terms of Hickman’s payout, no adjustment was made to his sick leave gratuity.

The union filed a grievance on Hickman’s behalf, alleging the employer violated the parties’ collective agreement by not paying him the negotiated wage adjustment. The union called for the employer to make Hickman whole in the amount of the pay increase.

The union argued Hickman was an employee at the time of the pay increase and, as such, was entitled to the economic benefits.

The employer, however, argued that the fact that Hickman was receiving a sick leave gratuity payout was in and of itself proof that his employment had been terminated. The only reason Hickman was receiving the payout was because he had retired, even though his official retirement date was listed as March 31.

Arbitrator Russell Goodfellow sided with the employer, saying that the option for the sick leave gratuity payout to be paid out over time, rather than in a single lump sum, intended only that the employee be given the option of taking the value of that payment in installments rather than all at once.

“They did not intend the amount to otherwise differ,” Goodfellow said.

As a result, the grievance was denied.

Reference: Toronto Public Library Board and the Toronto Public Library Workers Union Local 4948, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Russell Goodfellow — arbitrator. Clifford Hard for the employer, David Jacobs for the union. April 7, 2016.

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