An arbitrator has upheld the dismissal of a city “traffic operations” employee for threatening statements, a racist comment and one incident of dangerous and aggressive driving. The city relied on four incidents in firing the employee.
In the first incident, after being asked how his weekend was, the employee said that he had cleaned his gun and polished it up, and that there were “a few flunkies in the lunchroom that I would like to take hunting”. “Flunky” was a derogatory term that he routinely used to describe co-workers. The arbitrator found the employee’s statement to be threatening.
In the second incident, while a passenger in a City vehicle, he rolled down the window and yelled at group of protesters words to the effect of: “Go out there and get a f——- job. Go get a job.” In the third incident, he made a racist statement, about Italians, “the only good —– is a dead —–”.
In the fourth and final incident, he drove a city vehicle directly at a vehicle that was driving the wrong way on a street.
The arbitrator concluded:
“The grievor, in my view, is not just ‘eccentric’, as Union counsel did his utmost to portray him; he is, at least in the context of his most recent workplace setting, a simmering ball of negativity who is routinely disparaging of his co-workers, a maker of threatening or menacing sounding statements, a person given to insulting the public that the City serves, and capable of erratic, even dangerous, behaviour behind the wheel of a very large City vehicle. In my view, each and every one of these events, which unfolded over a relatively brief ten-day period, was worthy of discipline and all of them, in the light of the grievor’s record, support the decision to discharge.”
Further, the employee lacked self-awareness and was not apologetic, and did not appreciate the seriousness of his misconduct.This case is another example of how arbitrators are decreasingly tolerant of threatening or violent conduct in the workplace. The interesting aspect of this case is that while any one of the incidents, taken alone, might not have been just cause for dismissal, taken together they did provide just cause.