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Title: Employer and Union
Date: September 20, 2000
Arbitrator: Philip Kienast
Citation: 2000 NAC 153

 
In the Matter of Arbitration

          between

Employer

          and 

Union

 

OPINION
AND
AWARD

 

                                                                                            

OPINION

            This proceeding is in accordance with the parties’ Agreement.  A hearing in this matter was held on June 20, 2000 and the record closed upon receipt by the Arbitrator of post hearing briefs on July 31, 2000.  The parties stipulated the issues for decision as:

Was the grievant, Steve Garcia, terminated for just cause?  If not, what remedy is appropriate?

Background

            The Employer manufactures parts for the aerospace industry such as helicopter blades.  The grievant, Steve Garcia, was a machine parts inspector on the second shift.  A major element of his job was doing “first article inspections” which entailed examining the initial part produced by line operators to insure it met specifications before additional parts were manufactured.  On smaller parts these first article inspections are done at the inspection station but on larger parts, such as helicopter blades, the inspector had to go to the area where the part was fabricated to do the inspection.

            On October 28, 1999 the sole supervisor on the swing shift, Tom Christmas, noticed a machine operator standing idle by his machine.  When Christman asked the operator what was going on he was informed he had been waiting 20 minutes for a first article inspection of the leading edge for a helicopter blade.  After handling another matter elsewhere in the plant, he noticed the operator was still waiting for the first article inspection of the leading edge.

            Tom Christmas went to the inspection area to find out why the inspection of the leading edge had not been accomplished.  The grievant was the only inspector assigned to the area on swing shift.  Christmas asked Steve Garcia why an operator was waiting over 40 minutes for a first article inspection.  Garcia replied he would get to it when he finished doing a first article inspection of a small part.  Mr. Christman pointed out to him the part he was inspecting was not in production on swing shift.

            Steve Garcia responded by asking if Christman was telling him he was not doing his job.  Christman responded that he was not doing it efficiently by letting inspections needed for production runs on swing shift wait while he inspected parts not needed until the next day shift.  At this juncture, the grievant loudly told Christman to get the hell out of his area and to call the quality manager if he had a problem.  Christman told the grievant to settle down or he would suspend him and “walk him out of the plant.”  Christman left for a moment to get the quality department lead, Gus Garcia, to assist him in handling the situation.

            When the two men returned to the quality work area Gus Garcia tried to talk the grievant into going out and doing the inspection on the floor as Mr. Christman had directed him but to no avail.  The effort to get the grievant’s cooperation ended when the grievant suggested to Christman that “they go outside and settle this.”  Christman called the guard shack and told the guard he was walking the grievant out.  He told the grievant he was being suspended pending investigation.  The grievant allegedly replied to Christman:  “hope you walk around the corner with me” after getting the grievant out of the plant.

            Following an investigation Steve Garcia was discharged for insubordination, threatening his supervisor as well as being inefficient and disrupting production.

            The Union contends the grievant was not given a direct order to inspect the leading edge immediately and therefore did not fail to work as directed.  Moreover, it argues he was never warned he would be fired if he failed to conduct the inspection immediately.  The Union also maintains there is no clear evidence the grievant threatened Christman.

            The Employer contends the testimony of Gus Garcia indicates the grievant knew both that he was being given a directive to inspect the leading edge right away and that his job was in jeopardy if he refused.  It argues the grievant’s failure to promptly go out and inspect the leading edge interfered with plant efficiency.

Analysis and Conclusion

            Steve Garcia testified that when Christman first approached him about the need to go out on the floor and inspect the leading edge he told Christman he would when he was done with the inspection he was doing.  When Christman reiterated his request the grievant testified he told Christman once again he would go down there as soon as he finished the part he was inspecting.  The grievant acknowledged in his testimony that Christman then told him he was not being efficient by inspecting parts not in production that night rather than inspecting the leading edge that was being produced on that shift.

            The grievant further testified that his lead, Gus Garcia, told him “to calm down or he was going to lose his job” and that he told Gus “he didn’t have to take this from this punk” (in reference to Christman).  He also testified Christman told him “you better settle down or I will walk you out.”

            The foregoing evidence is clear and convincing evidence that the grievant knew he had been given an order to give priority to inspecting the leading edge so as to permit the operator to begin production.  It is also clear the grievant willfully and deliberately resisted following that order by saying he would get to it only when he finished inspecting the part he was working on.  Willful and deliberate refusal to follow a reasonable work directive from a supervisor constitutes insubordination.  Moreover, the fact the grievant told Gus Garcia “there are other jobs” in reply to his admonition to him that “he might lose his job” is clear and direct evidence the grievant understood the gravity of not going to inspect the leading edge immediately.

            It is unfortunate the grievant chose to contest the directive given him by Christman to work efficiently and go immediately to inspect the leading edge rather than continue to inspect a part that was not in production that evening.  However, the record discloses ample evidence the grievant knew what his supervisor wanted him to do and flat out refused to do it.  It is precisely this kind of adamant refusal to work as directed that arbitrators routinely find justifies discharge.  The Employer’s posted rules warn employees insubordination is punishable by summary discharge.  On the day in question, the grievant’s lead man, Gus Garcia, also warned him his refusal to work as directed put his job in jeopardy.  The grievant’s response that there “were other jobs” makes it abundantly clear he knew the consequences of his persistent refusal to work as directed.

            In summary, the Employer proved the grievant knew he could be discharged for failing to follow Christman’s directives and that he was deliberate and persistent in his refusal.  Summary discharge of the grievant for such grievous misconduct does not violate the just cause provision of the Agreement.  Pursuant to Section 8.2 of the Agreement, the Union is determined to be the losing party and will be assigned to pay the fees and expenses of the Arbitrator.

AWARD

1.         Steve Garcia was discharged for just cause.

2.         The Union as the losing party shall pay the Arbitrator’s bill.

 

 

_________________________________
Philip Kienast
September 20, 2000
Bothell, Washington

 

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