Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Attorney Awarded Favorable Decision in Arbitration Hearing


In a recent arbitration hearing, a local Union alleged that the Town violated their collective bargaining agreement by failing to pay workers a previously agreed liquor establishment rate. Representing the Town was Attorney Rachel Millette from Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP. The arbitration centered on a provision which was added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2019 stating that employees assigned to work at a liquor establishment shall receive a premium rate in addition to their normal pay. A parenthetical within the contract provision defined a liquor establishment as “property where a liquor license to sell or serve alcohol has been issued.” The Union argued that this language encompassed work performed at a mall, because restaurants, for example, contained therein had been issued a liquor license. The Town argued that this language simply clarified that liquor establishments include both restaurants where liquor is consumed onsite and package stores where liquor is sold for off-site consumption.


The Union further argued that its position was supported by the Town’s past practice of paying the liquor establishment rate for work performed at a mall over the last few years. The Town argued that there was no past practice relating to a premium rate under the circumstances, because the Town had no knowledge that employees were being compensated at the liquor establishment rate during the last few years. When the Town did become aware, it immediately ordered that the employees not continue to be paid at the liquor establishment rate when working at the mall. Although the arbitrator found both Parties’ interpretation of the contract language to be plausible, upon examination of the bargaining history concerning the parenthetical language, and citing the lack of evidence of mutuality necessary to establish a past practice, the Arbitrator determined that the Town did not violate the agreement, and denied the Union’s grievance.


Ms. Millette’s practice is primarily focused on the areas of municipal and labor & employment law, representing both private and public employers. She has participated in collective bargaining matters, grievance administration and arbitration, and matters before a number of state and federal agencies.  Additionally, Ms. Millette has represented municipalities in various litigation matters, including zoning enforcement and contract disputes. Ms. Millette graduated summa cum laude from Boston College in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in French. She received her Juris Doctorate from Northeastern University School of Law in 2019. During law school, Ms. Millette participated in the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic and was a member of the Law Review. She held internships at the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts working with Magistrate Judge Kelley and at Veterans Legal Services in Boston.

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