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Title: District 142 and Aircraft Service Intl
Date: December 3, 2002
Arbitrator: Lynn Wagner
Citation: 2004 NAC 132
THE MATTER OF:
142, INT’L Assoc. of
& Aerospace Workers
behalf of Lorenzo Lee,
arbitration arises out of a grievance filed by District
#142, International Association of Machinests & Aerospace Workers (hereinafter
“Union”), on behalf of Lorenzo Lee (hereinafter
“Grievant”), who until his discharge on or about February 20, 2002, was
employed by Aircraft Service
International (hereinafter “Employer”) as a skycap at Ft. Lauderdale
International Airport. The terms
and conditions of the Grievant’s employment were governed by the collective
bargaining agreement between the Union and the Employer dated December 15, 1998,
as extended by the letter agreement dated September 4, 2001 (hereinafter
“Contract”). The parties
exhausted the steps of the grievance procedure contained in the Contract and the
grievance proceeded to arbitration. The
Arbitration Hearing was held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on October 29, 2002.
At the hearing, the Grievant was represented by Paul Jones, General
Chairman of the Union, and the Company was represented by Theresa Hoien,
Regional Human Resources Manager.
parties agreed the Arbitrator should determine the issues to be decided. Based on the evidence introduced at the hearing and the
positions taken by the parties, the Arbitrator concludes the issues are as
Whether Grievant committed insubordination; and
If so, whether under all of the facts and circumstances, it constituted
just cause for his discharge.
relevant Contract provisions are as follows:
I – PURPOSE OF AGREEMENT.
he purpose of this Agreement is to provide…employment under conditions
of reasonable hours, proper compensation and reasonable working conditions….
XIV – ADJUSTMENT OF GRIEVANCES.
An Employee who believes he has been unjustly dealt with…may present
If the grievance is still not satisfactorily settled, the dispute may be
referred to an impartial arbitrator…. The
decision of the Arbitrator shall be binding on both parties….”
parties agree that the Grievance was timely filed, all steps in the grievance
procedure have been exhausted or waived and the Arbitrator has jurisdiction to
decide the Grievance on the merits.
parties acknowledge the Grievant has filed a charge with the National Labor
Relations Board (“NLRB”) arising out of the same facts and occurrences, but
agree that the Arbitrator shall decide only whether the Grievant was properly
discharged under the Contract, apart from any potential violations of the
National Labor Relations Act. The
parties also agreed that the grievance does not involve any claim the Grievant
was discharged because of his race, color, creed or national origin in breach of
Article XVII of the Contract or violation of federal or state employment
was employed by the Company for approximately nine (9) years prior to his
discharge. During that time, he
committed no offenses involving insubordination or other serious matters.
At the time of his discharge, he was employed as a skycap at the Ft.
Lauderdale International Airport under an agreement whereunder the Company
provides skycaps to Northwest Airlines. As
a tipped employee, the Company paid him at the rate of $2.13 per hour and he was
entitled to a prorata share of the total tips received by skycaps.
His share of the tips per week ranged from $700 to $1,000.
to Grievant, on February 14, 2002, he was assisting passengers in taking their
luggage off a conveyor belt. A
Northwest Airlines baggage agent told him to leave certain pieces of luggage on
the floor near the conveyor because the passengers were coming right back to
claim them. She told Grievant that,
if the passengers did not return immediately, she would place the luggage in the
Northwest Airlines baggage claim office. She
asked Grievant to leave the baggage cart he was using in the event she had to
move the luggage to the office. The
Grievant complied with her requests and left the area to take his lunch break.
Grievant was then approached by two lead skycaps who, although bargaining unit
members, have the additional duties under the Contract of leading and directing
the work of regular skycaps, such as the Grievant.
They presented him with a written “Employee Warning Record”, and
requested he sign it. It stated
under “Company Remarks of Violation”:
Lorenzo Lee was told to go to the baggage claim to work in the claim area to
work the flight. He refused to do
so. He was told again to go to the
claim area to work another flight. He
also refused to do so. The
Northwest agent had to clear the leftover bags off the belt.
Lee went to curbside and started checking after he was told to work the
Grievant signed the form, after writing in the section entitled “Employee
Remark of Violations”:
Faison [one of the Lead Skycaps] asked me to check the baggage room because he
saw the N.W. baggages (sic) agent taking two bags to baggage room – Agent
requested that I leave cart for her because of a problem with those bags.”
to Grievant, after hearing his explanation, Faison told him not to worry about
the written warning, that he “would tear it up.”
However, several days later, the Chief Skycap, Freeman, told Grievant not
to punch in for work, but to report to the office of the Company’s Area
General Manager, John Harris, about the written warning.
The Grievant went to Shop Steward, Ray Moses, and asked that he accompany
him to the meeting with Harris. Moses
refused, stating he could not do so until he received a copy of the written
warning. As a result, the Grievant went to Harris’s office alone.
declined to conduct a meeting on the written warning because the Grievant was
not represented by a shop steward. Harris
instructed Freeman, to provide Moses with a copy of the warning.
He told the Grievant he was suspended from work pending a meeting at
which Moses would be present. Although
the Grievant testified he was unsure what Harris meant by “suspended”, he
stated explicitly in his Affidavit to the NLRB dated May 7, 2002, that “Harris
told me that I could not work until I returned with my Shop Steward.”
Grievant returned to the jobsite at Northwest Airlines and told Moses what had
transpired during his meeting with Harris.
Although the Grievant testified at the hearing he told Moses only that he
had been “suspended”, in the NLRB affidavit he explicitly states, “…I
told [Moses] that Harris said I could not work until he went to the meeting with
to the Grievant, Moses replied that Harris did not have the right to impose a
suspension before a shop steward was provided with a copy of the written warning
and there was a meeting attended by the shop steward.
The Grievant testified that Moses then told him to punch in and work,
notwithstanding the suspension imposed by Harris.
Moses reportedly stated he would straighten out the matter the following
day. Moses denied he told the
Grievant to punch in and go to work.
Grievant completed his shift that day and punched in at the beginning of his
next shift, the following morning. According
to the Grievant, Freeman approached him and questioned why he had punched in
when Harris had suspended him. He
told Freeman that Moses had told him to do so.
Freeman directed him not to work until Moses arrived.
Grievant left the jobsite and returned around noon to meet with Moses.
it developed, the meeting was at Harris’ office and included Harris, Freeman,
a person identified as Wilson, Moses and the Grievant.
By that time, Moses had received a copy of the written warning.
During the meeting, Harris decided he needed statements from Faison and
the Northwest Airlines baggage agent and wrote under the Section entitled
pending further statements from Woody/[unintelligible] & NW agent.”
to Grievant, Harris then asked, “you did not go back to work, right?”
The Grievant admitted he had based on Moses’ advice.
Moses denied he told the Grievant to punch in.
Harris then crossed out the above notation and substituted:
for going to work while susp.”
the Step Two meeting, the Company affirmed the discharge, stating:
“ Employee returned to work after being told by General
Mgr. that he was suspended.”
February 27, 2002, the Union filed the instant Grievance for “unfair
termination of the Grievant”.
The Union argued that the Grievant did not commit the offense of
insubordination because he was never given a “direct order” by Harris, and
that the real reason for his termination was he had filed a workers compensation
claim in the fall of 2001. The
Union also contends that Harris acted improperly in suspending the Grievant
since the initial meeting was not attended by a shop steward.
Finally, the Union requested the Arbitrator take into account that Faison
had told the Grievant he was going to tear up the Employee Warning Record and
Grievant’s nine (9) years of seniority without a serious disciplinary offense.
Company argued that the Grievant violated a clear directive by Harris not to
return to work pending a meeting with his shop steward, the Grievant understood
the order, but, nonetheless, violated it, and that such insubordination
constitutes good cause to discharge him.
the arbitration hearing, the Union raised two additional claims: (1) the Company breached the Agreement by not following the
procedures under the Contract that were prerequisites to termination of the
Grievant; and (2) the Company terminated Grievant, not for working while under
suspension, but because he had filed a worker’s compensation claim.
Because the Union failed to raise such claims at earlier stages of the
grievance procedure and in the Grievance, it is precluded from raising them
before the Arbitrator. For this reason, the issues in this case are limited to those
listed above under “ISSUES”.
is universally recognized as a disciplinary offense, whether or not stated
explicitly in the collective bargaining agreement or work rules.
Moreover, it is viewed as a serious offense, for which the employer may,
under proper circumstances, discharge the offending employee without utilizing
a general rule, if an employee questions the validity of an order by his manager
or supervisor, he must obey the order and then file a grievance. Otherwise, he commits insubordination. Such an order, however, must be clear and direct.
Discipline, especially serious discipline such as discharge, should not
be imposed on an employee unless the order was clear enough that he knew or
should have known its meaning.
Arbitrator finds that Grievant clearly understood that Harris had given him a
direct order not to perform any work for the Company pending a meeting attended
by Moses. The Arbitrator cannot
credit the Grievant’s testimony that Harris only told him he was
“suspended” and that he did not understand that “suspended” meant he was
prohibited from working. That
testimony is contradicted directly by the sworn statement in his affidavit to
the NLRB that Harris told him he was not to work pending a meeting with Moses
the Grievant acted contrary to the clear and direct order of the Area General
Manager, he contends he did not commit insubordination, because his Shop
Steward, Moses, told him that Harris’ order was improper and he should ignore
it and report to work. However, the
Arbitrator credits the testimony
of Moses that he did not tell the Grievant to punch in contrary to Harris’
directive. While Moses may have
stated he believed the suspension was improper, the Arbitrator finds he did not
tell Grievant to punch in and work in contravention of Harris’ order.
reliance upon the advice of a union representative is not a legitimate excuse
for disobeying a clear and direct order of a manager or supervisor.
Again, the employee must comply with the order and, if the union
representative disagrees with its validity, the union may file a grievance.
deciding to disobey the clear and direct order of Harris, rather than complying
with it and then filing a grievance, the Grievant committed insubordination.
Grievant’s insubordination was a serious offense.
remaining issue is whether, under all the facts and circumstances, the
Grievant’s insubordination constituted just cause for his discharge.
Although the Contract does not
contain a provision that expressly restricts the Company’s discretion to
discharge, the parties stipulated at the hearing that the Company may only
discharge an employee for just cause.
is the capital punishment of the workplace.
It is generally warranted only for the most severe offenses, when the
employee has been disciplined for the same or similar offenses in the past or
when no lesser punishment adequately would deter such conduct in the future.
Grievant was a long-term employee of the Company with some nine (9) years of
seniority. His record contains no
evidence of similar offenses, and the Company did not contest his testimony that
he has always been a dependable, hard-working skycap.
Since his discharge, the Grievant has lost, including tips, between
$28,000 and $38,000 in earnings, plus other benefits under the Contract.
As a result, he has lost his automobile and his apartment or home.
Arbitrator concludes that the substantial losses the Grievant has suffered to
date are sufficient to deter him from engaging in the same or similar conduct in
the future. The Arbitrator also
concludes that mitigating circumstances exist in that his insubordination was
the first serious offense during his nine (9) years of employment with the
Company and, although not an excuse, he probably was influenced by the statement
of Moses that Harris’ order was improper and that he would “straighten the
matter out” (i.e., have the
suspension revoked) the next day and of Faison that he would “tear up” the
Employee Warning Record.
these reasons, the Arbitrator finds the Company has not proven by clear and
convincing evidence that this isolated instance of insubordination by a
long-term employee with an otherwise good record constitutes just cause for
discharge as opposed to other severe discipline, such as a lengthy suspension
without pay and a final warning. Therefore,
the Arbitrator concludes the Grievant should be reinstated to the position of
skycap without loss of seniority, but without any reimbursement of lost earnings
Grievant should understand that, because the Arbitrator has found he committed
serious insubordination, any future offense of the same or similar nature will
constitute just cause to his immediate discharge.
grievance is GRANTED. The
Company shall immediately reinstate the Grievant to his former position as
skycap without loss of seniority, but it shall not be required to reimburse him
for his loss of earnings and benefits between the date of his discharge and the
date of such reinstatement
THIS 3rd day of December, 2002.
LYNN E. WAGNER, ESQ.
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