City of New Haven and AFSCME, Council 4, Local 884
A city may not possess just cause to discharge a non-supervisory worker who performs her job correctly and who fails to follow up, to ensure that co-workers are alert and working. At approximately 4:19 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2011, an emergency dispatcher, Kendra Branch-Payne, relayed information to other dispatchers and paramedics, after an individual who suffered from asthma called. As a result of an investigation into the delayed response to the call, Branch-Payne received a 30-day suspension, because she allegedly knew that other dispatchers were asleep and failed to wake them or to inform the lead dispatcher that there was an emergency. The other dispatchers were suspended 15 days and 20 days, respectively, for alleged neglect of duty. The union objected that Branch-Payne's 30-day suspension was overly harsh, because she performed her job correctly and was not responsible to supervise the other dispatchers. The city argued that Branch-Payne deserved a lengthy suspension, because she was the only dispatcher who knew there was a medical emergency, and that she was required to follow up with the other dispatchers. Witnesses testified that Branch-Payne handled her portion of the emergency call correctly. Branch-Payne admitted that although hours earlier she had observed that her co-workers appeared to be asleep, she was unaware that there was any delay until supervisors investigated. Arbitrators found that the City of New Haven failed to prove that Branch-Payne knew co-workers were sleeping when she received the emergency call. It was management's function to ensure that workers remained alert. Arbitrators found that Branch-Payne, who was not a supervisory worker, was not required to check on co-workers, to ascertain that they were handling their job responsibilities correctly. The city lacked just cause to suspend Branch-Payne, and arbitrators reversed the suspension. Kip Lockhart and Scott Nable represented the municipality and the union.