Local 299 Playground Associate Wins $10K Out-of-Title Grievance

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

A Local 299 Parks Playground Associate won more than $10,000 in back pay after a DC 37 lawyer successfully argued his grievance for out-of-title work.

Parks Department managers at the Roy Wilkins Recreation Center in Jamaica, Queens, regularly assigned Recreation Specialist tasks to Playground Associate Dwayne Stanley, but continued to pay him at the lower salary.

Since 2015, managers assigned him 35 hours a week of Recreation Specialist programming work along with his duties and responsibilities as a Playground Associate. The difference in pay, however, is $4.52 per hour. After a few years, Stanley decided to file an out-of-title grievance. After the grievance went to Step 3, the union took it to arbitration. 

This was the first online arbitration in the history of the union and came about due to the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19. Amor Laor, the lawyer who brought the case before an Office of Collective Bargaining arbitrator in June in a virtual hearing said, “We are happy the arbitrator decided in favor of this hardworking and extremely dedicated member.” 

“Managers ask me why wasn’t I doing 21 hours of programming per week. My response was because it’s not within my title,” Stanley said. 

“I kept applying for promotions and asking for fair compensation, but it went nowhere. Managers told me I needed more confidence,” said Stanley, who has been on the job for 23 years. “But I was doing the job and I was good at it. I asked myself, ‘How much more confidence did I need?’”

Stanley went to the union and Rep Claudia Quick filed a grievance on his behalf in Jan. 2019. The grievance was decided in Aug. 2020 and is retroactive to the date it was filed.

Every week at Roy Wilkins and other Parks recreation centers in Queens, Stanley led innovative art workshops for children and adults, designed and led fitness programs for adults and people with special needs, and organized art exhibits. 

“I had 20 to 25 people enrolled in my classes. I even helped one man who had several strokes regain mobility in his arm and legs. He progressed so well that he was able to do things with little or no assistance,” Stanley said. “I developed a love and passion for my work and for helping people, but I also wanted to be fairly compensated.” 

According to the OCB decision, the Parks and Recreation Department said Stanley was a model employee. For more than a decade, managers would regularly use him as a Recreation Specialist only for the summer months and then bump him back down to Playground Associate. 

The union proved that Stanley’s duties are consistent with the title of Recreation Specialist and that he should be compensated accordingly. The OCB arbitrator agreed, and noted that “Stanley spent up to 60% or more of his time” in teaching. The decision orders the Parks Department to compensate Stanley as a Recreation Specialist as long as he performs Recreation Specialist duties. 

In October, Parks paid Stanley back wages of more than $10,000 before taxes, the difference in pay between his Playground Associate salary and the higher-paying Recreation Specialist title salary.

“I really appreciate having a union to help me,” Stanley said. “Management continued to step over me and not pay me for the out-of-title work. I could not continue to let that happen.” 

Local 299 President Jackie Rowe-Adams said, “If any member believes that they are being assigned work beyond their job description and they are not being compensated, they should contact the union immediately for help.”

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