Back in December 2021, one of our members filed a Partnership Agreement Dispute (PAD) against the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment (CDLE). Jessica had recently submitted a schedule change request, but it wouldn’t be approved until an extra half hour of work time was added to each day of her schedule.
As a salaried, exempt employee, Jessica protested, because she rarely had time to take the uninterrupted lunch break that this new schedule implied. As part of the 2021 bargaining team, she knew that this violated Article 14.3 of our Partnership Agreement. According to Jessica:
“During bargaining, negotiating these protections against exempt employees having their workdays extended for lunch breaks felt like a win. That feeling was instantly gone when CDLE decided that their policies were superior to the Partnership Agreement. CDLE continued to extend employees’ workdays, even when we couldn't take lunch breaks due to business needs.”
Jessica took action by working with her Organizer to file a Level I PAD with her department’s Human Resources. When HR failed to hold the required meeting to discuss her dispute, she escalated her PAD to Level II.
At Level II, the Director of the State Personnel Board upheld CDLE’s decision to extend Jessica’s workdays. They argued that Article 6 of our Partnership Agreement (Management’s Rights) gave them the right to alter Jessica’s schedule in accordance with departmental policy.
Jessica knew this wasn’t right, and took her concern to the COWINS Arbitration Committee. Working with the Committee and the COWINS legal team, Jessica’s case moved toward arbitration of this contract violation in Fall of 2022.
Results of Arbitration
Ultimately, the Arbitrator ruled that the State had violated Article 14.3 of our Partnership Agreement by requiring salaried, exempt employees to extend their workdays to accommodate a lunch break. What’s more, this decision establishes the precedent that there’s a limit to departmental discretion based on State Personnel Board rules: The broad nature of SPB Rule 1-9 does not contravene the specific language in Article 14.3 of our Partnership Agreement.
This means that CDLE (and all departments with similar practices) must cease and desist from applying departmental policies that violate Article 14.3.
In the wake of this victory, Jessica said:
“I highly value the arbitration process, and having a third party determine that the Partnership Agreement was being breached felt so validating. This win impacts all exempt employees, and tells employees their time is valuable and should not be taken for granted by department leadership.”
If you or a coworker have experienced a violation of our Partnership Agreement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
It took almost a year to reach this decision, but it was well worth it. The precedents set forth by this decision will carry on as we keep striving to enforce our contract.
But we wouldn’t have clarity on the rights laid out by our Partnership Agreement without the work of members. Jessica took a stand by filing the PAD itself, but our entire membership is responsible for this win.
It’s up to all of us as union members to apply this decision in our workplaces. If you’re facing what Jessica faced, or any other contract violation, you don’t have to challenge it alone. The more of us that stand together and sign on to disputes when we discover violations, the stronger our case will be as PADs escalate up the chain of command.
Without our shared responsibility as dues payers, there would be no path to arbitration. Jessica’s dispute would have died with the word of the department and misinterpreted State Personnel Board rules. Many state workers across Colorado would still be expected to extend their workdays unnecessarily.
Thanks to WINS members, Colorado state employees have a voice to speak up about mistreatment in our departments. If you haven’t yet, activate your membership here.