Answered! The Creative Reporter THE ISSUE Was the Grievant, Scott Richard, discharged for just cause? If not, what should the remedy be?…


The Creative Reporter
Was the Grievant, Scott Richard, discharged for just cause? If not, what should the remedy be?
On November 16, 2001, at about 4:45 A.M., night shift foreman John East saw grievant Scott Richard, a Front Helper on the 12 to 8 shift, cut off two half spools of 14-gauge galvanized wire from his rotolay machine and turn them over to Peter Maxwell of the Mesh Department, who then took these spools directly to the #2 Mesh Machine. The spools had neither been weighed nor properly tagged, in violation of official Front Helper Operating Responsibilities (Company Exhibit 2). East immediately recovered the spools, set them aside so that they would not be used, and then checked Mr. Richard’s production sheet. The latter listed four spools of 14-gauge galvanized wire—weighing respectively 1,541, 1,412, 1,506, and 1,348 pounds—as having been produced by Richard between his starting time of midnight and 4:45 A.M.
Asked by the foreman to produce the other two spools, Richard could not. East then took the original Richard production sheet, leaving the grievant the carbon copy for this document, and asked Richard to “rewrite” it. Richard thereupon made out a second account, which showed no 14-gauge wire at all as having been produced by him—according to Mr. Richard at the arbitration hearing, because Mr. East “told me that I wouldn’t get paid [even for the two witnessed as they were turned over to Maxwell] anyhow.” East denies that he said this.
At approximately 7:30 A.M. on November 16, inventory control specialist Jerry Ho arrived and was informed of what had transpired. He immediately went to the grievant and asked to see the two missing spools. Richard told him to “look for them yourself.” Weighing the two spools that East had originally recovered and isolated, the inventory control man found that the weight of neither matched any of the four weights on the original Richard production sheet. The grievant then, in the presence of his union representative, admitted that he had estimated the spools that he was supposed to have weighed. In each case the estimate was higher than the actual weight.
Mr. Richard was suspended as of November 17, 2001, and, by letter of November 23, 2001, discharged for his November 16th actions.
Violation of any of the following rules is considered inexcusable and is subject to immediate discharge:
1.Deliberate damage to, theft, or misappropriation of company or employee property.…
3.Altering time cards or punching another employee’s time card or deliberate misstatement or falsification of record at time of hiring. Note: This also applies to falsification of company records.…
As the Company assesses these circumstances, Mr. Richard was properly terminated for cause. His falsification of production records was “the equivalent of stealing because, by inflating his production, the grievant was obtaining money from the company for work that he did not perform” (Company Post-Hearing Brief, p. 2). All parties, it contends, have understood such conduct, specifically cited in the posted work rules under Group I as grounds for immediate discharge, to warrant this extreme action.
Richard’s own version, the Company adds, “changed repeatedly” (Company Post-Hearing Brief, p. 5)—the grievant, for example, after first admitting on November 16 that he had estimated, “changed his story on December 5 [at the grievance hearing] and tried to put the blame on Maxwell” (Company Post Hearing Brief, p. 6). Further, in the Company’s opinion, the grievant could not possibly have produced the 5,807 pounds that his original production sheet claimed: The rotolay machine was set to produce approximately 6,176 pounds for all four rotolays in an 8-hour shift and, even if Richard had run his four rolls continuously, his maximum achievement by 4:45 A.M. would have been about 3,088 pounds. The Company also has no qualms in concluding that Richard intentionally tried to cheat it: It submits that the grievant wanted his overly large numbers to look as though he had actually weighed, not estimated, the spools; and his inability to explain why he omitted all four spools from his second production sheet leads the Company to aver that “Plainly he hoped that Foreman East could be persuaded, during the balance of the shift, to forget about the matter” (Company Post-Hearing Brief, p. 10).
Finally, the Company argues that there are no mitigating circumstances requiring mercy in this case. Richard’s overall record the Company in fact judges to be “quite bad” (Company Post-Hearing Brief, p. 13), with several other offenses on his part having been committed in the last year alone and with a highly irregular employment history over the past few years.
On these grounds in particular the Company asks the arbitrator to deny the grievance and sustain the discharge.
Although the Union freely admits that what the grievant did in estimating the weight was contrary to Company policy, it argues that discharge under these circumstances is simply too severe. It requests the arbitrator to consider Mr. Richard’s 21 years of service with the Company and also the fact that the “difference of weight between [Richard’s] estimating and actual weight was about $1.60” in loss to the Company (Union Post-Hearing Brief, p. 2).
The Union also calls the arbitrator’s attention to several Steelworker arbitration awards (Union Exhibits 2 and 3) in cases involving charges of employee record falsification wherein discharge was deemed to be improper under the circumstances.
Based on the information given, what is position in this case? Why? Was the grievant, Scott Richard, discharged for just cause? If not, what should the remedy be?

Expert Answer

 If we analyze the case, we would find three clear instances of breaches done by Scott Richard.

First, he had violated the operating responsibility of a helper as per documented in the standard operating procedure. This is equivalent to Misconduct (Negligence or Rashness). The spools produced by him were neither been weighed nor properly tagged. The motive was also clear. He was trying to remove the traces of documentation so that nothing could be proved afterward. However, if this type of activity was carried out by him for the first time then suspension and discharge cannot be a correct remedy and the management should take a less severe action such as warning, show-cause notice, or charge sheet.

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Answered! The Creative Reporter THE ISSUE Was the Grievant, Scott Richard, discharged for just cause? If not, what should the remedy be?…
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Second, there is a more severe offense of falsifying the company records. The grievant, when instructed to reproduce the production sheet, did not do so though he had earlier made the record of production of the four spools of 14-gauge galvanized wire. Sufficient evidence can be produced in terms of the old production sheet kept by John East. The motive is also very clear. The grievant did not want to re-affirm the production which was found disputed by now and he understood that he would be held responsible. The production recorded by the grievant earlier was more than the capacity of the machine. This is a sufficient evidence for the company to conclude that the grievant’s conduct is equivalent to cheating/ forgery/ theft. According to this charge, the suspension and termination is justified.

Finally, the union’s claim that the damage caused by the wrong estimation was only a few dollars does not hold good because, in the case of negligence or misconduct, the management will never see the intensity of the outcome, rather it will always stress upon the motive of the grievant behind the conduct. In this case, the motive was very clearly visible and there is sufficient evidence to back that up.

Considering the above points along with the management’s claim that the grievant’s record was not satisfactory (which we assume that could be backed up by evidence), we think that the disciplinary action taken is appropriate in this case.

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