Windsor, Ont., welfare worker grieves denial of 3.5 hours of acting pay

Caseworker acted in same capacity as others in last 30 years

A caseworker for the City of Windsor, Ont., welfare department asked for acting pay for completing an investigation into a potential fraud case.
Alison Boyer had worked for the social-services department since 1980 and was working as a caseworker – float, which meant dealing with various clients in the Ontario Works program, the province-wide social assistance arm. 
On Jan. 12, 2016, Boyer heard from a client that her benefits had been subjected to a hold and she wanted to know why. After checking the records, Boyer told the client that she had undeclared income and had also been living with a man, so the funds were withheld.
The client told Boyer that she had worked as a property manager, but only received a reduction in rent from her landlord. 
The following day, the client and the landlord went to Boyer’s office for a meeting. The client completed a form that said she had worked for the landlord since January 2013, but had not been paid and instead received a rent discount for the work.
Boyer did some digging and found that the client had been previously convicted of embezzlement. After the probe was done, Boyer believe the client participated in a fraud.
Boyer met with her supervisor, who directed her to calculate the overpayment the social services department had made to the client. Afterward, Boyer calculated that the client would receive a reduction in benefits until the overpayment was reimbursed.
After this was done , Boyer calculated she spent one-and-a-half hours in the interview, two hours on the investigation and meeting her supervisor, as well as arranging overpayment documents before closing the file. 
Boyer requested she be paid 3.5 hours at the higher classification rate of the eligibility review officer (ERO) category. After the request was denied, Boyer and the union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 543 Windsor Municipal Employees, filed a grievance.
CUPE argued that the provision in the collective agreement determined that Boyer was acting in the capacity of the ERO when she investigated the potential fraud and, therefore, she should be paid the higher amount. 
The collective agreement said: “When an employee is appointed or requested by his/her department head temporarily to perform work of a character for which a higher classification is provided, he/she shall be paid immediately (at a higher rate).” 
However, the employer countered and said initial investigations of eligibility were part of a caseworker’s purview and that was what Boyer was doing.
Arbitrator Howard Snow dismissed the grievance: “I find that in doing this work of a preliminary review, the grievor was not doing work which was similar to the work done by the eligibility review officers.”
Boyer was simply doing her own job, said Snow, and “the work which (Boyer) did here in conducting what is generally referred to as a ‘preliminary review’ or an ‘initial investigation’ is not work done by eligibility review officers.”
As caseworkers had done similar work in the past, Boyer was not eligible to receive acting pay, said the arbitrator. 
“Caseworkers have long done the work (Boyer) did here, whether that work is described as a preliminary review or as a fraud investigation. Why might the parties have intended that caseworkers would now be paid acting pay for work they have been doing for the last 30 or more years?” said Snow
“Although I accept that it is possible these parties intended that this work would attract acting pay, I cannot think of a reason why the parties would have intended that a caseworker should be paid at a higher pay rate for doing work which for many years has been part of the regular duties of the caseworker.”
Reference: City of Windsor and Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 543 Windsor Municipal Employees. Howard Snow — arbitrator. Leonard Kavanaugh for the employer. Stephen Krashinsky for the employee. Dec. 11, 2018. 2018 CarswellOnt 21143

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