Hospital pulls plug on disappearing porter

Worker's attention was divided between two jobs

This instalment of You Make the Call features a hospital porter who kept disappearing after helping with autopsies.

William Moody, 57, was morgue attendant at the Victoria Union Hospital in Prince Albert, Sask. Hired in March 2006, he worked on a casual basis assisting with autopsies in the hospital lab.

A few months later, Moody bid on and won a casual/relief position as a porter in the hospital’s emergency department (ER). He intended for the ER position as a side job to help support his family.

In the summer of 2009, the nursing unit manager in the ER established a process where Moody was to provide notice that he was leaving to assist with an autopsy in the lab. Previously, he didn’t inform the manager when he left.

On two occasions in August and September 2009, Moody didn’t give notice when he left before the end of his shift to go to the lab. He was given a written reprimand indicating further incidents could lead to further discipline, up to and including dismissal.

In January 2011, the manager asked the pathology department to notify her directly when Moody was needed for an autopsy. He was always allowed to go, despite the fact his absence added to the workload of the nurses in the ER.

The manager told Moody multiple times that if he was called to the lab and finished there before his ER shift was over, he was to return and finish his shift.

On Jan. 27, 2011, Moody went to the lab for an autopsy. When the ER heard the autopsy was over, staff looked for Moody to return but he didn’t show up. Moody later said he didn’t understand he was to return and thought he was done work for the day, since the pathologist had told him he was done and could leave. Moody was suspended for two days and warned another incident could lead to discipline and possibly dismissal.

On March 3, Moody once again failed to return to the ER to finish his shift after an autopsy. Moody claimed it was a misunderstanding, but he was suspended for three days with another warning.

On Aug. 2, Moody didn’t show up for a shift in the ER, but worked in the lab . His employment as an ER porter was terminated and Moody grieved the dismissal, saying he didn’t know he was scheduled to work that day. He said he had been told a few days earlier by a scheduler that he was off that day and he hadn’t seen the calendar when he worked the day before — though he was surprised because he usually worked Tuesdays.

You Make the Call

Was Moody’s absence culpable and warranting dismissal?
Should the hospital not have dismissed him?

IF YOU SAID dismissal was appropriate, you’re right. The arbitrator noted absenteeism could be innocent or culpable. Though Moody argued his Aug. 2 absence was innocent because he was told he wasn’t scheduled to work, he should have known his call to the scheduling department wasn’t the final say. He worked on Aug. 1 and should have checked the schedule in the ER, which was the official schedule, especially since he had been disciplined more than once for being absent, said the arbitrator.

“There is no reason why someone who ought to be interested in attending work and in not missing work, and who was surprised that he was not scheduled to work on a day it was unusual to skip, would not have investigated further,” said the arbitrator.

The arbitrator found Moody was “quick to blame everyone but himself” for his absences, noting that his earlier grievance blamed “miscommunication” with scheduling but put the fault completely at scheduling’s feet. But he also later said he thought he could leave after the autopsy was done.

The arbitrator found Moody’s absenteeism was culpable and he should have made more effort to find out if he was working, particularly given his disciplinary history. Since he had been disciplined for similar misconduct on multiple occasions, termination was suitable for missing his Aug. 2, 2011, shift. See Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and CUPE, Local 4777 (Moody), Re, 2013 CarswellSask 133 (Sask. Arb. Bd.).

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