Bow and arrow + pillow fort = termination

May 20, 2015

pillow-fortAt some point, an employer loses patience with an insubordinate and potentially threatening employee.  In this case, a bow and arrow and a pillow fort, coupled with a continuing defiant attitude, proved too much for a Connecticut town, and paved the way for an EMT’s demise, at least in an employment sense.

In an apparent case of “show and tell,” the EMT brought a compound bow and arrow to the Emergency Medical Service garage in Stratford, Conn.

The inevitable happened.

A co-worker pulled back the bowstring, and the arrow pierced a window and landed in the parking lot.

Flying projectiles apparently not being a common occurrence in this workplace, town officials decided to conduct an investigation.  When the grievant failed to admit that it was his bow and arrow that caused the damage, supervisors reviewed surveillance video footage.

The camera didn’t lie and confirmed that, yes, the grievant’s archery kit was involved.

The result was a three-day suspension and warning that such conduct would not be tolerated. The union did not contest the action.

(WestlawNext users: Click here for more from the Labor Arbitration Information System.)

Several months later, the grievant decided that what the second floor of the EMS building needed was a “pillow fort” designed to look like a World War II beach bunker.

When confronted by supervisors about his unauthorized action, the grievant provided a one-line written statement in which he admitted building an “epic” pillow fort.  Pressed for an explanation, he angrily defended his action as a stress-relieving “fun team-building experience” akin to prior approved projects such as constructing a community garden, an aquarium and a barbeque grill.

Concerned that the employee was losing control, becoming violent and posed a safety risk to co-workers and patients, the town offered him the choice of termination or signing a last-chance agreement, which included a requirement that he seek help from the town’s employee assistance plan.

In a hostile response to both management and union officials, the grievant refused the offer and was terminated.

The union, in an effort to resuscitate the EMT’s employment, argued that the town overreacted as the cushioned stronghold neither posed a threat, nor deprived employees of sleeping quarters. Furthermore, during the fort’s construction, there was no call for service and thus no impact on response to patient care.

In upholding the penalty of discharge, the arbitrator found the grievant’s work record “replete with instances of his failure to adhere to the directives of his employer and to be truthful.”  The pillow fort incident was such an example where he had been warned not to undertake personal projects on-site without supervisory approval.

Moreover, his response to the reading of the last-chance agreement also was insubordinate, as he laughed and walked out of the meeting at least three times.

Finally, the grievant’s “evasive and contradictory testimony” at several meetings with his superiors convinced the arbitrator that he was “incapable of rehabilitation and that reinstatement with a lesser penalty is not warranted.”

Town of Stratford (CT) and IFPTE, Local 136, 43 LAIS 167, 2015 WL 2174408 (Feb. 26, 2015)