Employee Accepts Last Chance Agreement; Termination Upheld in Arbitration

People sometimes forget how effective last change agreements can be in employment situations: they provide the employee with an extra opportunity to save their career; they make employee representatives look good; and they give the employee little recourse if they slip up again.

In Metro Transit v. Amalgamated Transit Union, the grievant, a bus operator, agreed to a three-year last chance agreement, following an accident which was determined to be preventable.  The agreement stated that the grievant could not have more than two chargeable accidents during the life of the agreement.  If the grievant was found in violation of the agreement, it would result in their immediate termination and be considered for just cause.  Within a year, the grievant was involved in his second chargeable accident when he hit his brakes, causing a passenger to fall while riding the bus, and was terminated.  The union grieved.

Instead of accepting that the grievant was responsible for an accident, the union argued that the passenger was responsible for falling down while the grievant suddenly applied the bus’s brakes approaching a stop light.  The union argued there were mitigating circumstances surrounding the accident, and the grievant should not have been terminated.

While Arbitrator Toenges did take the time to review all of the evidence put forward at the hearing, he recognized that he was limited to the terms of the last chance agreement, and was not allowed to modify the discipline even if mitigating circumstances were found.  Having found that the grievant’s actions partially, if not fully, contributed to the passenger falling while riding his bus, the arbitrator had no choice but to uphold the termination.

While the employer still had to go through the preparation and cost of arbitration, it was able to avoid paying over a year’s worth of backpay to the grievant.  All that was necessary for the employer to prove was that the conduct occurred, and the grievance was denied.

When working through disciplinary grievances, it is important for an employer to consider all options for resolution.  Last chance agreements provide benefits for all parties involved, and are effective for employers looking to have their disciplinary decisions hold up in arbitration.  If you, or your organization, are in need of assistance at any point in the grievance process, contact Wiley Reber Law, for advice that works.