AFSCME Local 3313 members at the Scioto County Regional Water District were recently reminded how important the binding arbitration rights guaranteed by their Ohio Council 8 union contract are when a member was returned to his job with full back pay after being unjustly fired.
A six-year employee with no previous discipline problems, Wesley Baker was fired after management determined he violated work rules regarding fighting in the workplace.
“This whole case was built on smoke, mirrors and guess work,” said Staff Representative Gary Arnold, who presented the case. “In the first place, Wes was not the aggressor – he was the one who was pushed. Add in the fact that the alleged conduct he was disciplined for supposedly happened after hours and not on the employers property, so the case fell apart,” he said.
After the parking lot incident where Baker was shoved by another employee, he left the area and called the Sheriff’s dispatcher. A Deputy was on his way and Baker was directed to return to the parking lot.
When he did so, management supposed that Baker had returned to follow the other employee home and continue the fight there. This reasoning snowballed into a workplace violence charge and that resulted in Baker’s termination.
In his decision, the arbitrator agreed management failed on all counts and ordered Baker back to work with full back pay, seniority, vacation, and all other benefits accrued over the four months he was unemployed.
According to Arnold, prior to the argument, the two individuals had no animosity toward each other. “This whole thing was blown out of proportion and Baker was made the scapegoat. Without the union this would have turned out a whole different way,” Arnold said. “And no legal charges were ever filed,” he added.