City of Bridgeport and AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1522
A city possesses just cause to discharge a worker who allegedly engages in sexual harassment and touches other workers with items symbolic of male genitalia. A co-worker complained that George Criscione, who worked for the City of Bridgeport as a zookeeper, allegedly was harassing her, and the City of Bridgeport interviewed 18 workers, six of whom allegedly reported unwanted physical acts. Katherine Spindler reported that Criscione allegedly showered her with unwanted attention, blocked her path and refused to permit her to pass, until she said the "magic word." Elyse Pasquale alleged that Criscione touched her buttocks. Ms. Zmijewska alleged that Criscione placed a banana on her neck. Ms. Carubia-Am Ende complained that Criscione allegedly jabbed a carrot in her back. The city discharged Criscione for allegedly violating the policy on sexual harassment in the workplace, which prohibits indecent, inappropriate or immoral conduct that disrupts the work environment. The union filed a grievance and argued that discharge was overly harsh, because Criscione lacked basic social skills, he did not intend to harass and there was no progressive discipline, prior to discharge. Arbitrators voted, 2-1, that the city had just cause to discharge. Several women credibly testified that the grievant touched them with items suggestive of male genitalia, such as bananas and carrots. The grievant admitted that he was aware of the city's policies on sexual harassment in the workplace and did not provide evidence to contradict co-worker's claims. The grievant's only defense was he was joking and did not intend to sexually harass. The grievant knew, or should have known, his conduct was offensive when co-workers asked that he stop and one co-worker allegedly kicked Criscione, in self-defense. Dissenting, Cronan opined that the grievant should have received progressive discipline in the form of verbal counseling and a suspension, prior to his discharge. Rachel Volkman Kushel represented the municipality, and Maria Alfonso represented the union.