Falls Transit District
and International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local
Union No. 2
ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS PURSUANT TO
This Arbitration arose pursuant to Agreement between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 2, hereinafter referred to as the “Union, and the Great Falls Transit District, hereinafter referred to as the District/Employer under which C. ALLEN POOL was selected by the parties through procedures of the Montana State Board of Personnel Appeals to serve as Arbitrator in the above matter. The Parties stipulated that the matter was properly before the Arbitrator and that his decision shall be final and binding.
The hearing was held in the City of Great Falls, Montana on April 11,
2006 at which time the parties were afforded the opportunity, of which they
availed themselves, to examine and cross-examine witnesses and to introduce
relevant evidence, exhibits, and argument. The
witnesses were duly sworn. No
written transcript was made of the hearing.
Written closing arguments were timely exchanged between the parties and
submitted to and received by the Arbitrator on May 19, 2006 at which time the
record was closed.
Whether the Employer had cause to suspend the Grievant, Linda Huddleston, for three (3) days? If not, what shall be the remedy?
RELEVANT PROVISIONS OF THE AGREEMENT
Article 2 – Management Rights
Section 2.1- Management Rights:
All rights of management and the direction of the business and the
exercise of discretion reasonably related thereto, which have not been
specifically abridged, delegated, or modified by the Employer under a provision
of this Agreement, are recognized by the Union as being retained by the
Section 2.2 – Rules:
The Employer retains the right to establish such reasonable work and
safety rules as it considers necessary governing employee conduct on the job and
on Employer property provided such rules are not in conflict with any provision
of this Agreement, and provided that in any grievance proceeding involving such
rules(s) by showing that it is not reasonably elated to the orderly, safe and
efficient conduct of the employer’s operations.
Article 5 -Grievance Procedure
Section 5.5 Step Four: …….. The arbitrator shall consider the
grievance and shall render a decision within thirty (30) days of closing the
hearing of the case. That decision shall be final and binding on all parties to
The employer and Union shall share equally the cost of the impartial
arbitrator selected in Step Four.
Article 8, Section 8.1 Hiring, Suspension and Discharge
The Employer has the right to hire any person as an employee and to
suspend or discharge employees for cause. The
Employer agrees to furnish the reason, in writing, to the employee and the
Union, within ten (10) working days of the incident, or knowledge of the
incident which led to the suspension or the discharge.
Like other transit districts, the Great Falls Transit District has, in
its main facility, a “Ready Room” wherein drivers report for the start of
scheduled shifts. The District’s
“Ready Room”, which is approximately 12 feet by 20 feet, contains a Bulletin
Board upon which current notices are posted. Drivers are required to be familiar
with and to read the notices upon reporting to the Dispatcher and before the
start of his/her shift. The posted
documents pinned to the Board include new and/or amended policies, safety
information, road conditions, road closures and the current weekly work schedule
for drivers, Monday through Saturday.
Documents pinned to the Board are normally left there for 30 to 60 days.
Upon removal of a document from the Board, the document is placed in what
is referred to as the “Memo Book”, a blue 3-ring binder.
At some time in the future the relevant documents will be incorporated
into the District’s Operating Rules and Procedures (Jt-2).
The last time the District’s Operating Rules and Procedures manual were
formally updated was in July, 1999. However,
the “Memo Book” is kept in the Dispatcher’s office at all times and is
available to all drivers and other employees.
Prior to the incident that led to this Arbitration, there was an
established practice where upon employees/drivers could obtain photo copies of
posted documents by asking the Dispatcher to make a duplicate copy or make a
copy themselves on the photo copy machine.
The circumstances that led to this arbitration began in October 2005
about eight months after the General Manager, Jim Helgeson, had posted a new
policy (Jt-3) on the Board on
February 25, 2005. The new policy
had to do with reproduction of documents posted on the Board.
The policy placed a ban on the unauthorized reproduction of all
documents. The policy also stated
that all requests for a copy of documents must be made to the General Manager.
The reason was that he wanted to know where the document was going so that he
could be prepared for any questions that may come to his office.
The District considered the documents to be proprietary and confidential.
The General Manager had learned that some documents had been made
available to the public and he was concerned with the drivers’ safety and
privacy. The drivers’ weekly work
schedule posted on the Board contained each drivers badge number, last name, and
On Friday, October 21, 2005 the Grievant reported to the Dispatcher at
1:50 p.m. in the Ready Room. Her
shift was to start at 2:10 p.m. Sometime
prior to this, the Grievant had been informed that a female passenger had lodged
a complaint against her. District
policy requires that drivers provide the General Manager with a written response
to all complaints. Upon reporting in
that Friday, the Grievant gave her written response to the complaint to the
Dispatcher on duty, Cathy Breffon. Ms.
Breffon is also Administrative Assistant to the General Manager, Jim Helgeson.
At this point in time and before the start of her shift, the Grievant
went to the Bulletin Board and began to hand copy information from the
drivers’ weekly work schedule. Also
in the Ready Room were six other employees/drivers.
As the Grievant was hand copying information from the weekly schedule,
the General Manager approached her. The
exchange that followed between the two included a brief discussion about the
Grievant’s written response to the female passenger’s complaint and then a
question to the Grievant by the General Manager, “What are doing”?
The Grievant stated that she was copying information from the weekly
schedule. The General Manager asked
her if she had read the memo about reproduction of documents.
She replied that that the memo only applied to photo copying documents.
The General Manager testified that he “clarified” the matter by
explaining to the Grievant that the prohibition included all forms of copying
including hand copying.
The General Manger testified that he turned and walked away and as he
looked back he saw that the Grievant was continuing to copy from the work
schedule. He approached her again
and asked, “Do I need to make it a direct order and told her to stop.” She
stopped, turned away from the Board and as she sat down, she said “Put it in
The General Manager went to his office and returned with a copy of the
February 25th memo and gave her the copy.
He instructed her to report to him in his office on Monday morning
October 24th. Upon reporting the
following Monday, the General Manager issued the Grievant a three-day
suspension. The charge was
“Failure to Follow Specified Instructions, Unintentional” (Jt-5).
The Union filed a grievance that was processed to this arbitration.
POSITION OF THE EMPLOYER
The Employer did not violate Section 8.1 of the Collective Bargaining
Agreement. There was just cause to
issue the Grievant the three-day suspension.
She was aware of the February 25, 2005 memo.
She was copying the weekly work schedule and continued to copy after
being told to stop. She defied a
direct order and flaunted the General Manager’s authority.
Progressive discipline was followed.
The offense was similar to the offense for which she was issued a Written
Warning in June 2005 i.e. “Failure to Follow Specified Instructions” (Jt-4).
She was suspended for “her pattern of insubordination.”
The General Manager could have issued a discharge but elected to issue a
suspension instead. The grievance
should be denied.
POSITION OF THE UNION
The Employer violated Section 8.1 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The suspension was not for just cause.
The Grievant did not defy a direct order.
When told to stop hand copying information from the weekly work schedule,
she stopped. The Employer did not
follow progressive discipline. The
alleged misconduct was not similar to the misconduct for which she received a
written warning in June 2005. It was
a wrongful suspension and the Grievant should be made whole for all lost income
and benefits. The grievance should
As a prelude to the Discussion a few comments about the Just Cause
Standard and Progressive Discipline may be helpful. The Just Cause standard,
whether it is referred to as “Cause”, “Proper Cause”, or “Good
Cause”, is a standard of fairness and reasonableness.
The standard is not set in stone and continues to be debated among those
who practice in the area of collective bargaining and grievance arbitration.
standard consists of several elements that can affect the question of whether
there was just cause to issue an employee an adverse action.
The elements, however, are not just free floating notions.
They are the product of a
long history of evolving arbitration case “law” and serve as guidelines when
considering the question of whether there was just cause to discipline an
employee. However, of all the
elements, there is one that is nearly inviolable. That is the requirement that
there be proof of misconduct, for without proof there can be no cause for
discipline is corrective in nature. The
intent is to allow the impacted employee an opportunity to rehabilitate.
Except for the most egregious behavior, discipline is administered with
increasing severity and with notice to the employee that if the unwanted
misconduct does not cease he or she may, eventually, be subject to the ultimate
penalty; that is, discharge.
February 25, 2005 the General Manager promulgated a policy with respect to
requests for documents. The policy
stated that “Request(s) for copies of Great Falls Transit District documents
must be submitted directly to the Operations or General Manager”.
In addition, the policy stated, “Unauthorized reproduction of the
aforementioned types of company documents will constitute violation of company
policy, ‘Failure to Follow Specific Instructions(s)’”.
pivotal issue in this instant case was not the District’s right to establish a
new policy but the meaning of the term “reproduction”.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as the act of
producing a counter part or an image. Webster’s
New Collegiate Dictionary states that the term means to make an image, a
copy, a reconstruction, a duplicate, a replica.
It further states that “reproduction implies an exact or very close
imitation of an existing thing, etc.” However,
given the prior practice of photo copying documents almost at will and the fact
that drivers routinely took hand notes from the weekly work schedule, which was
always in a state of change, the District was not persuasive that the term
“reproduction” included hand copying information from schedule at the time
the policy was posted.
District’s contention was that the discipline was for just cause because (1)
she failed to obey a direct order and (2) for her pattern of insubordination
(District Brief, p. 10). With
respect to the failure to obey a direct order, the evidence record did not
support the District’s contention. On
the day of the incident where the Grievant was hand copying information from the
weekly work schedule, she stopped copying when given a direct order.
General Manager testified on cross-examination that he clarified the matter for
her by informing her that the term “reproduction” included hand copying
information from the weekly schedule. This was after she responded to his
questions, “What are you doing” and “didn’t you read the memo” with
the statement that the memo referred only to photo copying.
The record was not conclusive that the General Manager’s clarification
at the time was all that clear and that it was understood that the Grievant was
to stop hand copying. However, when
he looked back after starting to walk away and saw that she was continuing to
take hand notes he returned and gave her a direct order to stop whereupon the
Grievant stopped as ordered. The
Grievant did not, as alleged, fail to obey a direct order.
District stated that the Grievant “was not for suspended for a hand copying
violation. She was suspended for her
pattern of insubordination” (District brief, p. 10).
The evidence record did not support this contention.
There was no pattern of insubordination.
The prior discipline in June 2005 was not insubordination.
She made a mistake when she returned to the yard with a passenger still
on her bus. She admitted her error
and did not file a grievance. Her
error in that instance violated policy but to claim it was insubordination was a
respect to the hand copying incident, it was clear there was a miscommunication.
If the District had intended that the ban on “reproduction” of
documents include hand copying, the District could have very easily made that
clear at the onset of the initiation of the policy.
If that had been done, there would have been no dispute.
other matter needs to be addressed. The
District contended that the Grievant flaunted the Manager’s authority by
“demanding” three times that he put in writing that the prohibition on
reproduction of documents included hand copying.
The evidence record was clear that the Grievant did, at least twice, say
or suggest that the Manager put “it” in writing.
However, her suggestion was not in the form of a “demand”.
It was more in the form of a suggestion because there was obvious
confusion here and it should be cleared up.
the reasons discussed in the foregoing, the conclusion of the Arbitrator is that
the Grievant did not fail to obey a direct order and did not demonstrate a
pattern of insubordination. The
three-day suspension was unwarranted and not for just cause.
The grievance is sustained.
The Grievance is sustained. The
District did not have cause to suspend the Grievant, Linda Huddleston for three
Grievant shall be made whole for all lost income, with interest, and benefits.
The three-day suspension shall be expunged from her personnel file and
all other files.
Arbitrator retains jurisdiction over any dispute(s) that may arise out of the
implementation of this remedy.
C. ALLEN POOL, Arbitrator
 Joint exhibits are referred to as Jt-1, Jt-2, etc. Union exhibits are referred to U-1, U-2, etc.