Illustrative Case: Jack Pritchard's Attendance Record
     Most grievances don't go to arbitration. But some problems just can't 
be settled without it. One such problem for Labconco, a small Kansas City 
manufacturer of laboratory equipment, involved a worker's attendance 
record. The company's discipline procedure for workers with attendance 
problems involves four progressive steps-a verbal warning, a written 
warning, a three-day suspension. and finally firing. Before a worker is 
given a warning, though, the companv offers counseling. After the 
disciplinary process has begun, it can be canceled if the worker's attendance 
improves.
     When Jack Pritchard, an assembler, left work early one day to appear 
as a defendant in court, he was fired. Pritchard filed a grievance the next 
day. Supporting the grievance, the union claimed he had been fired unjustly 
because his absence was unavoidable. It asked that he be reinstated. Three 
months later, having passed unresolved through earlier stages of the 
grievance procedure, the case was presented before a professional arbitrator, 
a college dean paid by the company and the union and chosen by them from a 
list supplied by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. At issue in 
this case was the discharge clause in the labor contract that says " no 
employee shall be discharged, suspended, or disciplined without just cause."
     The arbitration hearing began with opening statements by the company 
and the union. The company called its witnesses-the director of 
administrative services, production manager, and Pritchard's supervisor. 
Through testimony and exhibits, the company's lawyer presented the 
following case. Labconco's attendance rules had been formulated with the 
union's cooperation and implemented with the union's approval. In 
accordance with the rules, Pritchard had been counseled often, had 
received many verbal and written warnings, and had even twice been 
suspended for three days before he'd finally been fired. The union's witnesses-
Pritchard and the union steward for his department-didn't refute the company's 
testimony. They focused on his personal problems-a large family, and 
seemingly unending health and financial problems. All these, they argued, 
made it hard for him to meet the demands of his job. "With all the problems 
that this person has had,'' asked the union representative, "why did the 
company have to take the day to terminate the man when they knew full 
well he had to be in court?" The company's position was that the absence 
was part of a pattern Pritchard apparently was unable to change. So many 
allowances had been made for him already,  explained the production manager, 
that "we were on the cliff-edge of discriminating against other employees." 
Further, Pritchard hadn't tried to change the court date or inform the 
company of it until the day before it was scheduled to take place.

  • Business 340 Syllabus

  • E-mail: Duane.Dove@sonoma.edu