City of Hartford and AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1716
A municipality may not possess just cause to discharge a worker who violates a requirement that he call a designated number to report a workplace absence, if the worker is absent because he has been arrested, and he asks a co-worker and friend to inform his boss. In July 2011, the City of Hartford hired Caniel Chung to work as a maintainer III in the parks department. Chung's boss was Vernon Mathews. On Feb. 14, 2012, the police arrested Chung, who was charged with violating a restraining order and incarcerated at the Hartford Police Department's lockup. Chung recognized the police department's custodian and asked the custodian to inform his boss, Mathews, that Chung was in jail and could not report to work. Chung also was allowed to make one phone call, which he made to his friend, Jennifer, and he asked Jennifer to call and to report his absence. Although Jennifer made five phone calls, the City of Hartford discharged Chung, because he failed to call the designated phone number to report his absence. The city argued it consistently discharges workers who violate the "no call, no show" policy. The union filed a grievance. Arbitrators found that Chung was not similarly situated to other workers who violated the "no call, no show" policy and reduced the discharge to a suspension. "[T]he grievant did notify his supervisors, albeit through others," wrote the arbitrators, "that he would not be reporting to work and the reason for such absence." Catherine Freeman represented the city, and Anthony Bento represented the union.