Arbitrator Reinstates Stop & Shop Worker Represented By UFCW Local 1445 & Attorney Patrick Bryant
Global corporation Stop and Shop lacked just cause to terminate a meat cutter represented by UFCW Local 1445 simply because he was incarcerated for driving with a suspended license. Attorney Patrick Bryant represented Local 1445 during the hearing before a neutral arbitrator. Local 1445 recently helped coordinate a massive and successful work resistance against Stop & Shop this Spring, during the arbitration.
In the underlying case, the worker (off duty) drove to rescue his teenage daughter from a party. On his way home after successfully retrieving his daughter, the police pulled him over and arrested him for driving with a suspended license. The police released him from custody almost immediately. He later told his store manager about the arrest and the subsequent criminal proceedings. He scheduled court hearings on his days off.
Later, he was convicted and immediately incarcerated for 60 days. Unable to contact his store manager, the worker's sister informed Stop & Shop about his circumstances, including the length of his incarceration. The store manager kindly kept the meat cutter on the books, paying him out his earned leave on a weekly basis, including his accrued sick, personal and vacation leave.
Stop & Shop executives, upon discovering the meat cutter's incarceration, ordered that he be terminated, citing an unwritten policy requiring termination when individuals are incarcerated. Stop & Shop did so and never notified the worker or his sister about this.
The arbitrator determined that Stop & Shop's purported policy of per se termination for incarcerated workers was contrary to contractual provision entitling workers to just cause. She further determined that termination is not justified if the worker did not have enough accrued paid leave to cover the period of incarceration. She drew upon many arbitration decisions, including ones that involved Stop & Shop, that instruct arbitrators to consider a variety of factors, such as the seriousness of the alleged criminal offense, the length of incarceration, the quality of the worker, the operational harm suffered by the company, and other factors.
She determined that those factors did not justify termination. She ordered Stop & Shop to reinstate the meat cutter and make him whole for lost wages and benefits.