Pyle Rome Partner Terry Coles and UFCW 1445 Strike Back at St. Vincent Hospital for Failure to Follow Progressive Discipline
On June 1, an arbitrator ruled in favor of UFCW, Local 1445 that a St. Vincent Hospital employee should be reinstated due to the Hospital's failure to follow its own progressive discipline policy. Pyle Rome partner Terry Coles represented the Union in the successful arbitration.
The case involved a Patient Care Attendant (PCA) represented by Local 1445 who was often assigned to one-to-one patient watch. Because of consistent short staffing -- of the same kind that is fueling the months-long strike by MNA nurses at the Hospital -- the PCA also routinely worked double shifts and overtime. The PCA was given a warning back in 2018 for allegedly sleeping on the job. Then more than two years later, the Hospital filed him for again falling asleep during his overtime shift. The arbitrator reversed the discharge, relying on the Hospital's own progressive discipline policy and form, which moved through four separate steps from verbal counseling, to a "conference," to a final warning, to discharge. Since the Hospital skipped from initial counseling to discharge, the Arbitrator ordered the Hospital to rescind the discharge and put the employee on a Final Warning.
The decision reminds us that there are always two parts to the just cause analysis: (1) whether the employee is guilty of the misconduct, and (2) whether the punishment is appropriate. If an employer maintains a clear progressive discipline policy, we can always insist on compliance with that process even when the employee is guilty as charged.