In the Matter of: City of Norwalk, Department of Public Works and Local 2405, Council 4, AFSCME, AFL-CIO
A complainant alleging that employees were discriminated against in their employment because of union activity has the initial burden of showing that the discriminatory action was taken because of protected activities, or at least that the protected activities were a substantial factor in bringing about the adverse actions. Christopher Torre, hired by the Norwalk Department of Public Works, served as union president, vice president and executive board member, before being promoted to road supervisor. Torre told Carlos Gonzales during a meeting that he was "only half a man, you're beneath me." He later asked why crew members were late for a meeting. Hector DeJesus responded that he had been conducting union business. Torre stated that union business during work hours must be preapproved and that the city or Torre "owns you from 7 to 3." Lawrence Taylor filed a grievance with Randal Givens and DeJesus, complaining of racist statements and scare tactics. Torre called Taylor off duty, stating that he was not a racist and Taylor should "not go down that road." Torre told DeJesus to wash a washed truck and told the crew that DeJesus was terminated for taking money from a customer but reinstated for a technicality. The city denied the grievance. The union claimed that Torre harassed bargaining unit members to interfere with the grievance process and that DPW director Harold Alvord, issued a memorandum restricting union activity during working hours in retaliation for the grievance. The majority of the board dismissed the complaint finding that the union failed to prove a prima facie case of unlawful harassment or retaliation for the exercise of rights under the Municipal Employee Relations Act, violating C.G.S. §7-470(a)(1), as the substance of the city's actions did not support a reasonable inference of animus. Taylor admitted to having socialized with Torre and was not threatened or coerced by his call. No disciplinary consequences followed DeJesus' refusal to rewash his truck. The union did not contest the veracity of Torre's comments on DeJesus' disciplinary history or contend that Torre's gossip interfered with protected rights. Alvord's memorandum confirming departmental policy regarding union business during work hours was not unlawful retaliation or harassment. Low dissented.