A firefighter for the City of Medford, Massachusetts Fire Department was scheduled to work a 24-hour shift on a Tuesday. The firefighter applied to take a day of bereavement leave after the death of his uncle. The firefighter’s uncle’s wake was held on Wednesday and the funeral was on Thursday.

The City denied the request for bereavement leave, taking the position that the contract language governing bereavement leave intended to allow leave only when it was “necessary” for the employee to attend a wake, funeral, or memorial service. Local 1032 of the International Association of Fire Fighters challenged the City’s decision in arbitration.

An arbitrator upheld Local 1032’s challenge. The Arbitrator concluded that the term “bereavement leave” was more expansive than “funeral leave” and was not limited by the need to take leave on a particular day. Rather, the Arbitrator found, bereavement leave includes time for “grieving,” making necessary arrangements, or dealing with financial and other affairs. The only restriction on bereavement leave, the Arbitrator held, was that leave had to closely follow the death of a relative.

City of Medford, Massachusetts and IAFF, LAIG 6695 (Cochran, 2008).

The above article has appeared in a previous issue of Public Safety Labor News and has been reprinted courtesy of Labor Relations Information System. These articles are for informational purposes only.