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Arbitrator Sustains Discharge of Cellular Technician: Misconduct, not Status as Chief Union Steward, Was the Cause

January 26, 2004

KM&M's client, a major wireless communications provider, discharged a technician for crashing a company vehicle while driving it for personal reasons and while intoxicated, and for providing untruthful information during the company's investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident. The technician's union representative, the Communications Workers of America, challenged the discharge by filing for arbitration, claiming that the technician (who was the chief union steward) was terminated because of his union activity, and that the company lacked just cause for the discharge under the applicable collective bargaining agreement. In particular, the union argued that the company treated the technician more harshly than other employees involved in traffic accidents, that the company allegedly tolerated drinking and driving in other circumstances (such as by sponsoring or permitting social events at which alcohol was served), and that the company had failed to take account of the technician's 10-year unblemished record and his personal and family difficulties which allegedly led to his misconduct. In an exhaustive 51-page Opinion and Award, the Arbitrator rejected all of the union's claims, ruled that the technician was discharged for just cause, and dismissed the union's grievance.