Dairy Not Giving In

Shenandoah’s Pride Appeals Pay Award For Laid-Off Workers

Posted: December 12, 2012

Shenandoah’s Pride Dairy LLC has appealed a federal judge’s decision to award laid-off employees all their unused vacation pay.

While the case stems from 13 employees let go when Shenandoah’s Pride shuttered its Charlottesville plant in August 2011, the 19 workers at the company’s Mount Crawford distribution center at 168 Dinkel Ave.  also will be affected by the outcome.

The collective bargaining agreement in question governs employees at both locations.

The dispute over withholding some vacation pay led to an arbitration hearing last year between Shenandoah’s Pride and the employees’ union. In February, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters-Local 29 in Waynesboro.

In October, U.S. District Court Judge Michael F. Urbanski upheld that decision. Shenandoah’s Pride filed an appeal late last month to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

A hearing date for the appeal has not been set.

When the Charlottesville plant closed, the company did not pay out all 2012 vacation that the 13 employees had earned by working in 2011. The union says they are entitled to the full amount because they worked 130 days in 2011.

The company argues that its past practice was to prorate such unused vacation, to equal two-thirds of the full entitlement in the Charlottesville case because employees worked two-thirds of 2011.

The most senior employee, for example, would have had 25 days of 2012 vacation, and was paid for 17.

The amount of unpaid vacation totals about $13,000.

Four Mount Crawford employees also have been laid off and not received full vacation compensation, said John Farrish, the union’s secretary-treasurer and principal officer.

Shenandoah’s Pride says the arbitrator erred by ruling in favor of employees and effectively modifying its agreement with the union.

“Given the fact that the union had never questioned a prorated vacation payout to any departing employee and the fact that there had been no protest over the payout of employees covered by [the agreement], I was taken completely off guard by the union’s position,” Mount Crawford branch manager Greg Harper said in court records.

But, in a phone interview, Farrish said, “There’s nothing in the contract that mentions ‘prorated.’”

He says the Mount Crawford plant has 19 employees, significantly down from 99 in 1998, when he started his job with the union.

The company and Farrish will begin negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement in mid-January. The current one is set to expire Jan. 31.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com

 



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