Arbitration Case: Discharge of Peter SeichekClosing StatementMr. Arbitrator, the termination of the employment of Mr. Seichek, by theWheelwright Corporation, was for his “sleeping on the job”. Lets examine thisstated reason – in the light of the evidence provided by witness testimony andcontained within Mr. Seichek’s personnel record.
1)Mr. Holloday testified that he and Mr. White, the third shift supervisor,observed Mr. Seichek, wearing his welding hood, sitting or leaning against theladder, “apparently” asleep. Further, Mr. Holloday stated that he called to Mr.
Seichek six or seven times to get his attention.
Mr. Seichek was then directed to accompany Mr. Holloday and Mr. White to theoffice. In the office, Mr. Holloday told Mr. Seichek that he had been caughtsleeping before, and that his absenteeism was excessive, and therefore was beingsuspended.
Mr. Arbitrator, they found Mr. Seichek at his work station, wearing hisprotective clothing, waiting for a co-worker to return with needed parts, inorder to continue the job. With the welding hood on, they could not positivelydetermine that he was asleep, and six or seven calls to get his attention in thenoisy, factory atmosphere is not extreme.
In reference to having been caught sleeping before, Mr. Holloday, testifiedthat on August 16,1982, that he found Mr. Seichek asleep in the reception areaand on August 17, he was found asleep on a tool box near the time clock. Inboth instances, Mr. Holloday awakened him, directed him to clock in and returnto work. Mr. Seichek complied with this direction.
Mr. Holloday went on to state that these instances annoyed him, but since Mr.
Seichek was on break and not “on the clock”, that he (Holloday) should not anddid not issue a formal, verbal warning or make any notation concerning theseincidents in Mr. Seichek’s record.
2)Mr. Lewis, the third shift steward, gave testimony that it has been acommon practice for employees to sleep during their break periods and tooccasionally doze on the job.
This corresponds with Mr. Holloday’s testimony concerning his decision not toissue a formal verbal warning to Mr. Seichek after he (Holloday) found himasleep during break.
Of further note, Mr. Lewis stated that heard Mr. Holloday use an ethnic slurwhen referring to Mr. Seichek sleeping on the job. This raises a question as tothe objectivity of Mr. Holloday with regard to his supervision of Mr. Seichek.
On the morning of December 3, 1982, Mr. Holloday notified Ms. Delores Lopez, thePersonnel Assistant, that he had suspended Mr. Seichek pending possibledischarge because he had found him sleeping on the job. Mr. Holloday also toldher that he had directed Mr. Seichek to report to the Personnel Office at 7:30A.M. that same morning.
3) Mr. Banks testified that he conferred with the Plant Manager and theProduction Superintendent before he and Ms. Lopez talked with Mr. Seichek.
Mr. Banks stated that in their conversation Mr. Seichek admitted that he hadfallen asleep, but that he felt that this had been induced by the medicationthat he was taking. This medication had been prescribed by the companyphysician to relieve the pain that Mr. Seichek continued to have from a workrelated injury. At the conclusion of this conversation, held on the morningof December 3, 1982, sometime after 7:30 A.M., Mr. Banks terminated Mr. Seichek”for sleeping on the job”.
4) Mr. Seichek testified he was asleep on December 3, 1982, when he should havebeen at work, but that he could not do much without the parts that Stone,another employee, had gone for. He also stated that he was drowsy because ofthe medication he had been taking and didn’t remember just which or how muchmedication he had taken that day or night.
Mr. Seichek further testified that he had asked Dr. Jones for medication, notonly to relieve the pain from his injury, but to permit him to continue to workbecause of his absenteeism situation. This statement is not contradicted. Mr.
Seichek also stated that when he responded to Mr. Holloday’s call, in thebasement, that he had tried to explain to Mr. Holloday that he was undermedication that made him sleepy. Mr. Holloday told him that it made nodifference and let the suspension stand. Mr. Holloday admitted this response.
Mr. Seichek also testified, that during his conversation with Mr. Banks in thePersonnel Office on the morning following his suspension, it was he whovolunteered the information that he had slept previously during break periods.
5) Chuck Adams, President of Local 200, United Industrial Workers Uniontestified to the filing of a grievance by Mr. Seichek over his discharge underprovisions outlined in the contract. Mr. Adams stated that the Union and theCompany had several grievance meetings. At the second meeting in the grievanceprocedure the Company produced the complete disciplinary record of Mr. Seichekand stressed that his absenteeism record as well as sleeping violationsjustified the discharge.After further investigation, Company representativesreaffirmed the decision to terminate Mr. Seichek on December 28, 1982.
A final piece of testimony, Mr. Adams states that at one stage in the grievanceprocedure the Personnel Director commented to him that a former employee hadcontended, in an EEOC proceeding, that the Company permitted white employees tosleep on the job without disciplining them.
Examination of Mr. Seichek’s personnel record shows that he was verballycounseled twice for absenteeism in 1979 and once in 1980 for sleeping on the jobby the maintenance foreman at that time. There is also one entry by Mr.
Holloday who gave Mr. Seichek a written reprimand for excessive absenteeism andno report on March 13, 1980. Mr. Seichek was further warned that continuedabsenteeism would result in another reprimand and possible time off. On October18, 1982, Mr. Seichek received a work related injury. He was absent untilNovember 5, 1982.
On November 12, 1982, he was absent without report.
On November 15, 1982, he was reprimanded for absenteeism and suspended for 5days.
On November 22, 1982, Mr. Seichek received a letter of “final warning” from thePersonnel Office. The letter stated that his attendance record was completelyunsatisfactory ; that his Supervisor Holloday had given him various oralwarnings and two reprimands since January because of his absenteeism: that hewould be discharged if his absenteeism did not improve.
Relevant Contract Article – 20.24…Any employee who receives two (2) writtenreprimands for the same offense within one (1) year may be subject to a three(3) work day layoff and any employee who receives three (3) written reprimandsfor the same offense within one (1) year may be subject to discharge although itis not to be considered as an established procedure.
At the end of this article is a list of twenty-four (24) offenses considered tobe less serious. Number 3 on the list reads:3. Sleeping on the job.
Number 15 on the list reads: 15. Habitual tardiness or absences from work without permission.
Mr. Arbitrator when the facts of this case are applied against Article 20.24 ofthe contractual agreement there is no justification for discharge. In his 6year tenure with the company Mr. Seichek received two verbal warning forabsenteeism in 1979 and one verbal warning for sleeping on the job in 1980.
There is one written reprimand for absenteeism and no report. This is datedMarch 13, 1980. There are no other verbal or written disciplinary notations inMr. Seichek’s personnel record dated between March 13, 1980 and November 15,1982, a period of 2 years, 9 months. Article 20.24 requires that there be three(3) written reprimands, for the same offense within a one (1) year for theemployee to be subject to discharge.
Now I ask the questions for Just Cause:Question One – Was the employee adequately warned of the consequences ofhis conduct?For the charged offense of sleeping on the job – No.
Mr. Seichek received one (1) verbal warning for sleeping on the job in1980. Further, it has been the commonly accepted practice for employees tosleep on the job during breaks. There has been no notification by the Companyof the intention to no longer permit this practice.
Question Three – Did management investigate before administering discipline?For the charge offense of sleeping on the job – No.
Mr. Seichek was terminated by Mr. Banks approximately three (3) hoursafter the alleged misconduct. The Company also failed to inquire into possiblejustification for the alleged violation. No inquiry was made concerning thepossible effects of the prescribed medication prior to the termination of Mr.
Question Four – Was the investigation fair and objective?For the charge offense of sleeping on the job – No.
Mr. Banks did not question Mr. Holloday or Mr. White prior to the decisionto terminate Mr. Seichek.
Question Five – Did the investigation produce substantial evidence or proof ofguilt?For the charge offense of sleeping on the job – No.
Mr. Banks failed to actively search out witnesses and evidence.
Question Six – Were the rules, orders, and penalties applied evenhandedly and without discrimination?For the charge offense of sleeping on the job – No.
The enforcement of prohibition of sleeping on the job had been lax.
The Company gave no notice to employees of the intent rigorously enforce thisrule. Further, other employees had contended in EEOC proceedings that there hadbeen discrimination in the enforcement of the sleeping prohibition.
Question Seven – Was the penalty reasonably related to the seriousness of the offense and the employee’s past record?For the charge offense of sleeping on the job – No.
A trivial offense does not merit harsh discipline unless the employee hasbeen properly found guilty of the same or other offenses a number of times inthe past.
Mr. Seichek was verbally counseled for sleeping on the job – once in 1980. Thereare no other notations concerning sleeping on the job in his personnel record.
The contractual agreement lists sleeping on the job to be considered a lessserious offense.
Was Mr. Seichek discovered in a reclining position in a dark corner or someother location, hidden from the view of his supervisors? No. He was found athis work station, wearing his protective clothing, leaning against the ladder,waiting for his co-worker to return. There was no intent to sleep on the job.
Mr. Arbitrator, I submit that the discipline imposed on Mr. Seichek violates thecontractual agreement between the Wheelwright Corporation and the UnitedIndustrial Workers Union. Further, the imposition of this discipline fails sixof the seven tests for Just Cause.
We ask that you overrule his termination. We ask that you make Mr. Seichekwhole. We seek his reinstatement to the Wheelwright Corporation, in the jobclassification and pay rate held prior to termination, with full restitution ofback pay and all benefits.
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