Employee Residency Requirements in Arbitration - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 56, No. 3
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Those who gripe about their commute to work have probably never considered the fact that there are some people whose employers do not allow them to commute. Such employees are, by virtue of their jobs as law enforcement officers, health care workers, etc., required to live within a certain area—usually within city limits—close to the workplace or to the people that they serve. These are employees who would probably gladly commute if it would mean living in a particular house or town that they like, or living closer to family and friends. It is no wonder that residency requirement rules could sometimes be a major source of dispute between employees and employers. In this article, Donald Petersen reviews 22 published arbitration awards that focus on residency requirement rules and examines the reasoning of arbitrators in rendering their awards.
In both the private and public sectors residency requirements have sometimes been imposed by employers for a variety of proffered reasons. Residency requirement rules, of course, restrict employees to live in a certain locale specified by the employer.
Most of them are introduced in the public sector by towns or cities, especially to firefighters and/or police officers. In the private sector, such rules are used almost exclusively by public utility employers and apply only to employees required on an emergency basis. Because residency requirement rules have been considered a “condition of employment” by arbitrators,1 as they may create hardships for employees, such rules are subject to collective bargaining. Naturally, if the parties have negotiated a mutually satisfactory rule, the arbitrator’s responsibility is merely to enforce it.2
When no negotiated residency rule exists, the employer may be free to unilaterally impose such a rule. Nevertheless, residency requirement rules may still be challenged through the grievance procedure. Of course, if no satisfactory settlement is reached in the lower steps of the grievance procedure, arbitration may be invoked by either party to the agreement.3
Generally, employers defend their prerogative to make rules and regulations in accordance with their contractual management rights clause.4 Unions may claim that the residency requirement rule in question unreasonably fetters employees’ freedom and/or has violated some other provision of the parties’ agreement.
Published arbitration awards are a convenient source of obtaining information relative to arbitral approaches to disputes regarding residency requirement rules.5 Two of the major sources for published arbitration awards are the Bureau of National Affairs’ (BNA) Labor Arbitration Reports, and the Commerce Clearing House’s (CCH) Labor Arbitration Awards. Every volume of these two publications was consulted, and a total of 22 arbitration cases formed the basis for the conclusions reached in this study. The cases cover the years 1971 to 1997. This article will discuss the status of residency requirement rules in unionized situations, covering both the public and private sectors.