City of Torrington and AFSCME, Council 15, Local 442
Arbitrators can find that a suspension is overly harsh as a penalty for sleeping on the job. Allegedly, a lieutenant who worked for the City of Torrington fell asleep in his motor vehicle on Sept. 8, 2010, when he was working an extra duty job at a construction project. The lieutenant was considered an excellent worker and had not previously been disciplined. The municipality issued a one-day suspension, apparently claiming that a command-level officer is supposed to set an example and should receive more discipline, especially if the offense is visible to the community. The union filed a grievance and argued that the suspension was overly harsh, because the code of conduct suggests a written reprimand for a first offense of conduct unbecoming an officer or sleeping on the job. There was no evidence that the lieutenant intended to fall asleep or that he was asleep a lengthy time. Arbitrators voted, 2-1, that the municipality lacked just cause to issue a suspension. Accidental infractions should receive more leniency. Sleeping on duty does not automatically require a harsh penalty. "[T]he severity of the discipline," wrote the majority of arbitrators, "was not commensurate with the seriousness of the offense." Arbitrators reduced the discipline to a written reprimand. Craig Manemeit represented the union, and Victor Muschell represented the municipality.