Sunday, March 2, 2014

Employer's transfer of bus driver at school's request not disciplinary, just cause not required

The Connecticut Board of Mediation and Arbitration has issued an award in a dispute between First Student and Teamsters Local 671. The grievance was filed on behalf of a school bus driver employed by First Student who was transferred to a different route after a request by Manchester Public Schools that she not drive any of their students. The cba between First Student and the Union required (according to the Board) First Student to remove a driver at a school's request. Following the removal of the grievant from the route, she accepted a transfer to a different school district. The Union sought to challenge the removal and alleged that the employer had failed to conduct a thorough investigation of the conduct alleged to be the basis of the request for removal. Unsuccessful in the grievance process, the Union pursued the case to arbitration.

The Board of Mediation and Arbitration unanimously found no violation of the cba. Concluding that the Union had failed to meet its burden of proof, the Board noted:

The contractual language which governs this dispute is clear and unambiguous. It requires the company to remove a driver upon the request of a school district. The company met this request. Also, since the company was not discharging or disciplining the grievant it was obligated to make reasonable efforts to find the grievant other suitable employment at a different location. It met this obligation and the grievant was transferred to another nearby school district.

The Board further noted that while, as a practical matter, an investigation by the company might make sense in order to understand the reason for the school's request, "failure to investigate fully is not a basis for converting a reassignment into a disciplinary decision." The Board concluded that the company had no discretion to refuse the school's request, and thus this was not a situation in which just cause was required.

The Board's decision can be found here.

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