The Discharge of Matthew B. Flynn THE ISSUE Was the discharge of Matthew B. Flynn for proper cause?

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The Discharge of Matthew B. Flynn

THE ISSUE

Was the discharge of Matthew B. Flynn for proper cause? If not, what is the appropriate remedy?

BACKGROUND

On July 25, 2008, between 8:30 A.M. and 9:00 A.M., Filamite Operator Matthew B. Flynn was observed by his departmental General Foreman, Edward Wyner, tearing pieces of colored tape and sticking them to his machine for identification purposes. All of Mr. Flynn’s coworkers had already begun work: In contrast to Flynn’s situation, their machines were running and tubes were being made.

Foreman Wyner asked Flynn if this was his normal procedure and, receiving an affirmative answer, informed Flynn that the taping would be more efficiently done while his machine was also running. Mr. Flynn did not respond but after walking away and washing his hands immediately returned to his machine and once again attached tape without running the machine. Again, the supervisor told him about the more efficient way to do this and again Flynn walked away from Wyner in silence. Wyner this time walked toward Flynn and requested the latter to stop and discuss the matter. Flynn just kept walking away, without speaking, toward the exit of the department. Wyner now told Flynn that if he left the workplace without permission he (Wyner) would have to “write” Flynn “up.” Flynn then turned back from the exit but continued to walk away from Wyner and again did not respond.

Now Wyner said, “Matt, will you please stop so we can talk about it?” and got ahead of Flynn and faced him so that the latter had to stop.

According only to Wyner, Flynn then reached out in silence, grabbed the supervisor’s right arm and spun him to his (Wyner’s) left away from him (Flynn) with enough force that Wyner hit a nearby table at approximately waist level and went across the top of the table. Wyner, in his account, reached out to break the momentum, his feet now off the floor; the table rocked; and solvent splashed on Wyner. The table then righted itself and Wyner, having landed back on the floor, stood up and walked back to his office to “calm down.”

After about a minute, Wyner went back out into the department and, now observing Flynn at his machine preparing to run it, told the employee to shut off the machine and come up to a table near Wyner’s office to talk. Flynn said, “No, you’d better leave well enough alone.” Wyner repeated the request and again was refused by Flynn.

Mr. Flynn was suspended soon thereafter and then discharged. Essentially conceding all of the above as factual except for the alleged shoving incident—to which, if it occurred, there were no witnesses (or at least no witnesses willing to identify themselves as such) and which he completely denies—Flynn in his grievance contends that his discipline was unjust. He accordingly requests that he be reinstated and made whole for all monies lost and that his record be “cleared of the alleged incident.”

RELEVANT LANGUAGE

PLANT RULES AND REGULATIONS

Violations of the following regulations will be sufficient to subject the employee to immediate dismissal:

1.Insubordination—such as, but not limited to: a.Failure or refusal to perform work assigned or to comply with instructions as given by members of supervision or others in authority. b.Leaving the department or walking off the job without authorization. c.Belligerent or uncooperative manner, failure to show proper respect to supervision. d.Swearing at, threats against, personal abuse, intimidation or coercion of members of supervision, or others in authority or a fellow employee.

ARTICLE IV

Management

(12)Except as limited by the specific terms of this Agreement, the management of the Company and the direction of its working forces, including the right to hire, transfer, promote, demote, discharge for proper causes, to increase or decrease the working forces is vested solely in the Company, provided, however, that none of said rights of the Company shall be exercised for the purpose of discriminating against Union members. (13)In addition, the products to be manufactured, the schedule of production, the methods, processes and means of manufacturing are functions of the Company.

POSITION OF THE COMPANY

The Company takes the position that Mr. Flynn, even without the shoving incident, violated reasonable rules and regulations that were well known to him sufficiently as to warrant his discharge. He was, on July 25, 2008, insubordinate at least four times in his behavior toward foreman Wyner in the Company’s opinion and under the clear language of the Plant Rules and Regulations was appropriately discharged solely for this conduct, which he basically has not disputed.

He did, however, physically grab the supervisor, whose credibility in this arbitration has—the Company argues—been fully established. In stark contrast, concerning the issue of credibility, the grievant’s denial of the shoving is highly suspect as the Company views the matter. The Company asks the arbitrator to note especially that Mr. Flynn in his 28 months of service established a disciplinary record that included one written warning and two 3-day suspensions for dishonesty under three different supervisors (as well as disciplinary actions taken against him for other infractions).

Given the nature of Flynn’s offenses on July 25, his disciplinary record, and his short tenure with the Company, there are in the Company’s eyes no mitigating circumstances here and the grievance should accordingly be dismissed.

POSITION OF THE UNION

In sharp contrast, the Union contends that the discharge was not for proper cause. Much of Mr. Flynn’s disciplinary record was established prior to the grievant’s successful treatment for drug-related problems. He has in any event been penalized for all of these past infractions, the Union points out, and should not be penalized for them again.

As for Flynn’s conduct on July 25, the Union asserts that the grievant simply tried to show good judgment, by walking away to avoid confrontation with a foreman who was obviously so bellicose that at least one employee (Union witness Gary Jones) could hear Wyner’s “screaming [at Flynn]” above the noise of the air compressor.

Indeed, in the Union’s opinion, Wyner trumped up the shoving incident charges because he could not deal with this desire of Flynn to avoid a confrontation. The Union asks the arbitrator to bestow heavy weight on the fact that during the investigation of all of the July 25 allegations the Company refused to see if there were any marks on Wyner’s body and argues that the Company merely accepted the supervisor’s word that the physical assault had taken place without any substantial evidence that Flynn was in fact guilty of the alleged wrongdoing.

The discharge was therefore not, as the Union sees the situation, for proper cause and it asks the arbitrator to so agree.

In your opinion, was the discharge of Matthew B. Flynn for proper cause? If not, what is the appropriate remedy in this case? Explain your answer.

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