Two King County employees will now receive fair compensation for their work plus a significant back pay award after they had been incorrectly classified by their employer, thanks to a Teamsters Local 117 arbitration victory.
The case involved three accountants – Nollin Ngoev, Emily Wang, and Connie Hughes – in the County’s Finance and Business Operations Division.
Despite the fact that all three employees handle critical, county-wide funds, the County’s Compensation Management System (CMS) refused to classify Ms. Ngoev and Ms. Wang as “Senior Accountants.”
“I feel my current duties, level of responsibilities and the body of knowledge and skills required to do my current job fit more accurately with the Senior Accountant level position,” said Ms. Ngoev, a 10-year County employee.
As it turns out, Ms. Ngoev’s supervisor agreed. Indeed, County management acknowledged that both Ms. Ngoev and Ms. Wang did the work of Senior Accountants, and indicated that they would eventually be reclassified after CMS had finished studying their positions.
The three women waited years for the results of the study. When it was finally issued, the recommendations were a disappointment: CMS maintained that both Ms. Ngoev and Ms. Wang did not meet the classification requirements associated with Senior Accountant.
“We were shocked. We have the same experience, background, and workload as the Senior Accountant matrix, but we were not classified that way,” Ms. Ngoev said. Frustrated, the women turned to their Union for help. With the assistance of Local 117’s Public Sector and Legal Departments, they pursued the issue through the Union’s grievance and arbitration process.
Eventually the case was brought to arbitration in early December 2010. Local 117 Staff Attorney Dan Swedlow argued the case for the Union.
Ms. Hughes, who had previously achieved Senior Accountant classification, was seeking to be classified as a “Principal Accountant.” After hearing the case, Arbitrator Timothy Williams ruled that Ms. Hughes retain the title of Senior Accountant and not be classified as a Principal.
In the case of Ms. Ngoev and Ms. Wang, Williams determined that the body of work that they perform clearly requires a “higher level of responsibility” than that of “journey” level Accountant, and that they should be reclassified to the level of Senior Accountant.
“We were very happy and excited that we won,” Ms. Ngoev said. “Dan did a great job prepping us for the arbitration, and he understood our case really well.”
“This win sends a strong message to the employer that the Union will not back down when our members’ rights are violated, and it demonstrates the power of a Teamsters collective bargaining agreement that enables us to challenge the employer when one of our members is classified incorrectly,” said Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, Tracey A. Thompson.