City sues firefighter, union over vacation time

The city of Beaumont is suing a local firefighter and the union representing him in hopes of "reversing" an arbitrator's decision allowing the firefighter to carryover his vacation time.

The city filed the suit against Earl Shelton and the Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399 on April 15 in Jefferson County District Court.

Court papers show that under the Texas Local Government Code and the collective bargaining agreement in place between the city and firefighter union, "all vacation time earned in a calendar year must be taken in the following calendar year."

According to the suit, at the end of 2008 Shelton had lingering vacation time he had earned in 2007 but had not used – vacation time he wanted bumped up to 2009.

Shelton's request that the time carryover to 2009 "was denied pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement," leading him to file a grievance and seek arbitration, court papers say.

On April 5 arbitrator Don Hays rendered a decision in favor of Shelton, finding that collective bargaining agreement language was somewhat "ambiguous" when pertaining to vacation time carryover.

In its suit, the city argues Shelton did not file his arbitration claim within the 15 day grace period "after the occurrence giving rise to his complaint."

The city also argues that the arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction by not enforcing the deadline.

"This court should reverse the arbitrator's decision and find that firefighter Shelton is not entitled to carry over vacation pay," the suit states. "The arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction by disallowing the city's defense of timeliness."

The city is represented by Senior Assistant City Attorney Quentin Price.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. B186-553

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