Vernon Board of Education and AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1303-35
A worker who allegedly is aggressive and insubordinate may be discharged, without progressive discipline, for "unusual behavior." In March 2012, Bobby Burnett complained to the superintendent of schools about lack of overtime. The superintendent asked other workers about Burnett, and they allegedly complained that Burnett scared them. On Aug. 31, 2012, Burnett allegedly spoke very loudly and said that he refused to trim the grass, as requested, unless paid overtime. On September 4, Burnett requested a locker that became available when a co-worker retired. Allegedly, Burnett complained loudly, when another individual received the locker. Burnett allegedly wrote his name on the locker and removed the items of the individual who had recently been assigned the locker. Burnett was informed that he would not be allowed to use the locker. Later that day, Burnett allegedly growled when co-workers said, "Hi." Surveillance tapes showed that on the date of the locker incident, Burnett appeared agitated and waved his arms a lot. The superintendent discharged Burnett. The union filed a grievance and claimed that Burnett did not receive progressive discipline and that administrators, who were Caucasian, discriminated against Burnett, who is Jamaican. The board of education objected that progressive discipline was not required, because Burnett engaged in "unusual behavior" that made co-workers feel threatened. The "unusual behavior" clause provides that administrators can recommend discharge, if a worker's "behavior constitutes a hazard to the welfare of others." Allegedly, Burnett did not apologize to co-workers or exhibit any remorse. Co-workers testified that Burnett made them feel uncomfortable and threatened. "[I]n a post Columbine, Virginia Tech and Newtown world," wrote the arbitrators, "the Employer in order to protect its students and staff, chose to act and dismiss the Grievant instead of going through progressive discipline." Arbitrators found that the board of education had just cause to discharge Burnett for "unusual behavior," and they denied the grievance. Jason Wells represented the union, and Frederick Dorsey represented the municipality.