Worker fired after he carved images and words into cuts of meat
An employee at an Ontario meat processing plant who carved messages and symbols into pieces of meat was deserving of discipline but didn’t deserve to be fired, the Ontario Arbitration Board has ruled.
A Meat Processing Company (AMP) operates a mechanized facility that breaks down livestock into cuts of meat. On Valentine’s Day, 2011, a piece of meat was found with “I heart u” carved into it, and pieces of fat were inserted into the carving. The supervisor showed it to all employees working and told them it was unacceptable. Other employees testified that they expected doing such a thing would warrant discipline such as a warning or a suspension, though AMP had no specific policy covering such an incident.
During the last week of February, a co-worker of the employee received a cut of meat with a piece of fat placed on it shaped to say “I heart you.” She didn’t know who had done it, though another worker saw the employee pushing a piece of fat onto a piece of meat. The employee initially denied doing this as well as the Valentine’s Day carving, but eventually admitted to both.
AMP interviewed another worker on March 3, and the worker said he saw the employee carving a sad face on a piece of meat. The worker said he pulled it off and the employee then carved a happy face. The co-worker noted the carving was on a cut of meat that was usually discarded as scrap. AMP terminated the employee for misleading it and for his misconduct.
The arbitrator found that there was enough evidence to conclude the employee had patched fat onto a piece of meat in addition to his meat carving and he should have known it was unacceptable conduct that could lead to discipline, even if it was scrap. However, the arbitrator also found there was no indication that such misconduct would lead to discipline as serious as termination.
“There is no evidence before me that at any time, including when (the supervisor) circulated on Feb. 14, employees were ever made aware that patching fat onto a piece of (meat) or carving a piece of (meat) destined to be scrap would be a cause for discipline let alone discharge,” said the arbitrator. “Further, there was no shared expectation on the part of employees that such conduct, or even the more serious misconduct of carving a saleable cut of meat, would result in discharge.”The arbitrator determined a suspension would be appropriate discipline and ordered AMP to reinstate the employee with no loss of service or seniority for the nine months since his firing, but with no back pay. See U.F.C.W., Local 175 v. A Meat Processing Co., 2011 CarswellOnt 14384 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).