The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled last week to dismiss Chris Boulter’s unfair labor practice charge against the City of Saline and Saline Police Department.
Chris Boulter was promoted to Sergeant June 10, 2014. Boulter was married to a dispatcher in the Saline Police Department and began a romantic affair with another dispatcher. Upon learning of this, Police Chief Larry Hrinik told Boulter he would have to give up his sergeant’s rank or face discipline. On Dec. 4, 2014, Boulter gave up his sergeant’s rank.
Less than three months later, Boulter filed an unfair labor practice claim with MERC. He alleged he was coerced to give up is rank under threat of termination. He also alleged the city denied him proper union protection.
In April of 2015, MERC Administrative Law Judge Travis Calderwood issued a decision ordering the city to reinstate Boulter’s sergeant’s rank – although Calderwood’s ruling also said the city could discipline Boulter for his conduct.
Calderwood ruled the city violated Boulter’s “Weingarten” rights when it told Boulter’s union representative, Duane Smith, he could not speak during an interview Boulter had with Hrinik and City Manager Todd Campbell.
The MERC Commission ruled Calderwood erred in his ruling, citing previous cases that say employers had the right to hear uninterrupted accounts from employees. The commission also a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that held that employers could lawfully insist union reps not answer questions during an investigatory interview.
In addition, during Boulter’s case before Calderwood, Smith testified that despite Hrinik’s instructions not to talk, he would have answered any questions Boulter had.
Should Boulter choose to appeal MERC’s ruling he must do so within 60 days of the Jan. 19 ruling.