City of Bridgeport and IAFF, Local 834
A worker who receives counseling and a written memo that confirms that he received counseling may not be able to grieve the counseling, because counseling may not qualify as an oral or a written warning for which just cause is required. In April 2012, Kevin Shevlin, who worked for the City of Bridgeport’s fire department, received counseling. A written memo of counseling was issued that stated, "[Y]ou are to refrain from this type of behavior so as to avoid possible discipline." The union filed a grievance and argued that the city lacked just cause to discipline. The city objected that Shevlin was not disciplined and that the matter was not arbitrable. The fire department chief testified that for minor infractions an employee may receive counseling four or five times, before an oral warning is issued. The union claimed that counseling qualifies as an oral warning, and that just cause is required to issue an oral warning. The collective bargaining contract provides, "No permanent employee shall be removed, dismissed, discharged, suspended, fined, reduced in rank, or warned, either in writing or orally, except for just cause." Arbitrators unanimously concluded that the grievance was not arbitrable, because counseling is not included as discipline in the collective bargaining contract. The City of Bridgeport employs counseling to discuss performance issues before they reach the point of discipline. "To reclassify counseling as discipline," wrote arbitrators, "would disrupt a well-established practice that has benefited both management and employees." Philip White represented the municipality. Daniel Hunsberger represented the union.