Town of Wethersfield and IBPO, Local 391
A "last chance" agreement between a worker and an employer can incorporate parts of the "just cause" standard for discipline and exclude other parts. On Oct. 7, 2010, Miguel Vargas, who worked as a municipal police officer, signed a "last chance agreement" that governed the terms of his continued work. In March 2011, the chief of police suspended Vargas, allegedly for use of force and conduct unbecoming an officer. The following month the municipality discharged Vargas. The union filed a grievance, alleging the municipality lacked "just cause" to discharge. The parties dispute whether the "just cause" standard in Section 22 of the collective bargaining agreement applies to a discharge under a "last chance" agreement. Section 22 provides, "All discipline shall be for just cause." The union maintained that Vargas could only be discharged for "just cause." The municipality argued that when Vargas signed the "last chance" agreement, he relinquished the right to be discharged only if "just cause" existed. Arbitrators found that the "last chance" agreement was well-written and not ambiguous. Part of the "last chance" agreement includes restrictions on Vargas' rights to protest allegations of misconduct. Part 2 of the seven-part standard for "just cause" continues to apply, because the "last chance" agreement provides that Vargas "agrees to fully comply with all legal directions, instructions or orders of superior officers." (Part 2 requires that misconduct reasonably relate to the orderly, efficient and safe operation of the employer's business or the expected conduct of the employee.) Part 5 of the seven-part standard for "just cause" also applies, because the "last chance" agreement provides that "the Union shall have the opportunity to grieve the sole issue of whether or not the conduct for which [Grievant] was terminated actually occurred as the Department alleges." (Part 5 requires substantive evidence of proof of guilt.) Other parts of the "just cause" standard for discipline that require adequate notice, a fair and objective investigation, equal and non-discriminatory treatment, and an appropriate penalty do not apply to the grievant's April 2011 discharge. Robert Pickering represented the union, and Kenneth Plumb and Kyle McClain represented the municipality.