Company fails to recognize fired worker’s vision problems

July 11, 2016

Employment Law BookA medical condition, coupled with apparent management animus, persuaded an arbitrator that a long-term employee’s discharge for loafing lacked just cause.

A binder/forming wash water operator with 35 years of service was terminated for sitting in a corner of his work area, out of sight for three hours, without doing any work.

(Westlaw users: Click here for the Labor Arbitration Information System.)

His union claimed the employee’s behavior was necessitated by his medical condition: cataracts. There was no interference with his duty of waiting for a binder machine alarm to sound, the union added.

The grievant also alleged that his new supervisor had a “vendetta” against him because he served as a union shop steward.

The arbitrator found no just cause for discharge.

He said the corner where the employee was sitting was close enough for him to hear the machine alarm, and work logs showed he answered the alarm as required.

The arbitrator also noted the grievant’s credible and consistent testimony regarding his vision problems, and management’s awareness of his condition.

The arbitrator took a dim view of the supervisor’s admission that he did not know the full scope of the grievant’s job duties, as well as his “blatant statements” about the employee. “He comes across as a supervisor with ill-conceived smoldering rancor towards the grievant that may well have colored his testimony,” the arbitrator said.

Accordingly, the arbitrator directed that the grievant be reinstated and made whole, with prior written warnings and a final warning remaining active in the employee’s file for 12 months as per the labor agreement’s progressive discipline language.

CertainTeed Corporation IG Group and GMP, Local 260, 44 LAIS 135, 2015 WL 9918429