City of New Haven and UPSEU, Local 424, Unit 34
If a municipality departs from its past practice of informing the union when a worker's job is in jeopardy, fails to inform the employee he could be discharged and fails to send a copy of a letter about a factfinding hearing to the union, arbitrators can find that the employee did not receive due process and order a hearing on the merits. On Oct. 15, 2012, John Prokop, the director of the Department of Public Works for the City of New Haven, instructed Brandon Constance, a garbage worker, to report to his office the following day, to discuss Constance's use of sick leave and failure to renew his commercial driver's license. Mario Anes, a union representative, and Constance went to the meeting. The union president did not attend, because he was away on leave, and the union vice president did not attend, because he was not informed. Department of Public Works Director John Prokop decided to discharge Constance, effective October 19, because he failed to renew his commercial driver's license. A copy of the discharge letter was sent to the union president and not directly to the union. On November 15, the union filed a grievance and argued that the city failed to follow established practices and effectively prevented the union from representing Constance. The city objected that the grievance was not file timely, within 15 days. Arbitrators found that the October 15 letter classified the October 16 hearing as a factfinding hearing, as opposed to a disciplinary or pre-termination hearing. Arbitrators questioned whether the October 15 letter met minimum standards for proper notice. The letter did not inform the employee that he might be discharged. There was no indication that a copy was sent to the union. Arbitrators found that the City of New Haven failed to follow its past practice of informing the union when a bargaining unit worker's employment was in jeopardy. Constance did not receive due process, and arbitrators ordered a hearing on the merits. Scott Nabel represented the city, and Brooke Sherer represented the union.