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Dear Steward: Fight at Work

At the San Francisco conference, a panel of 5 labor arbitrators discussed a case involving a grievant who did two things:

1. In the break room, he grabbed a fellow worker by the collar or shirt, pulled him out of the chair and said, “Let’s go.”  (There’s a factual dispute whether “Let’s go” was meant to go & fight outside or go to the manager’s office.)

2. In the manager’s office, he took a step toward the same fellow worker, and he calmed down when the manager stepped in between them. 

The panel split on whether to uphold the discharge.  There were good reasons on both sides. 

It’s more common for discharges of physical touching / assault to be upheld. So in this edition, we just cover the reasons cited by the arbitrators who would have reduced the discipline.  These questions will help you in other fight or touching cases.

Was it a flash of temper?

This was a brief interaction, both on the floor and in the manager’s office.  It could be characterized as a flash of temper, because the underlying altercation was over a small matter.  

What’s the other guy like?

In this case, the co-worker was, by other testimony, difficult to work with and not popular.   He is still a victim, but how contributory was his behavior?

Did the grievant express immediate remorse?

Being contrite relates to future employability.  It matters at what point in time the grievant expresses remorse (the earlier, the better).  In this case, he expressed remorse in the manager’s office after being told to calm down.

Was the grievant just having a bad day or bad moments?

As one arbitrator put it, everyone can have a bad day and, in this case, it was a brief moment or moments.  This latter observation applies in this case because he is a 15-year employee with a good work record.

-L2019 Steward Council

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