Attorney Al Gordon O'Connell and UFCW Local 1445 Win Reinstatement For Worker Fired Without Due Process
On January 13, 2021, Pyle Rome partner Al Gordon O'Connell scored an arbitration victory on behalf of UFCW, Local 1445 regarding a warehouse worker fired without the Company having given him a chance to address the charges against him. The case reaffirms the right of unionized employees to due process in disciplinary matters.
The Company alleged that the grievant had engaged in a pattern of manipulating his productivity tracking in order to increase his incentive pay. Over the course of a number of months, the Company spoke to the employee a number times about productivity and productivity tracking and even gave him a warning. When the Company again saw what it thought to be the same kind of manipulation, it fired the employee over the telephone without even having interviewed him about the allegation. While the Company gave the employee the chance to tell his side of the story during the grievance process, the Company unsurprisingly did not change its mind, and the case went to arbitration.
At hearing, the parties made a number of arguments about whether the Company proved any wrongdoing at all, but the Arbitrator did not even reach those arguments. She held that the Company violated the grievant's due process rights when it failed to give him the opportunity to tell his side of the story before it fired him. She also determined that the Company failed to follow progressive discipline since the Company failed to give him a final warning, which was the standard practice of the parties. Because of the due process violation, the Arbitrator ordered that the employee be reinstated with full backpay.
The case serves as a useful reminder to unions that procedural arguments in discipline cases can be just as important as whether the employee did anything wrong.