Attorney Alex Robertson Wins a Progressive Discipline Case Reducing the Suspension of a Long-Term City of Boston Employee to a Written Warning
On February 3, 2021, an arbitrator issued a ruling in favor of SENA, Local 9158 reducing a three-day suspension to a written warning for a long-tenured City of Boston employee whose only issue was his failure to notify his boss about some vandalism to a coworker's car. Pyle Rome attorney Alex Robertson represented the Union in the successful arbitration.
The City suspended the employee because he failed to file incident reports regarding two matters: (1) a resident who had threatened to vandalize employees' cars; and (2) an unrelated situation in which an employee's car was actually vandalized. The City did maintain a policy requiring employees to file incident reports for issues of vandalism, but the arbitrator found that the threat of vandalism from the resident did not fall under that policy because the threat didn't seem credible. But since the City's policy specifically required reporting of actual vandalism, the arbitrator found discipline would be appropriate for the employee's failure to report the actual vandalism. However, the arbitrator relied on language in the parties' CBA that required progressive discipline in "all but the most serious cases." The arbitrator held that the employee's failure to report the vandalism was wrong but was not an "intentional act of misconduct" and did not deserve the employee "being removed from the work force for even one day."
While SENA is fortunate to have such clear progressive discipline language in its contract, arbitrators will typically apply the concept of progressive discipline in routine disciplinary matters of this kind even without such CBA language. An employee's long tenure can also be a mitigating factor in consideration of appropriate discipline.