B.C. road worker fired after ‘verbally abusive’ encounter

Discipline record included two final letters: Arbitrator

After two negative incidents within 12 days of each other, a worker at a British Columbia mining company was terminated.

Guy Travis worked for Teck Coal since 1993, when on May 16, 2017, he confronted Dave Armstrong around 7:40 a.m., as Travis was ending his shift and heading for the showers. 

“I hear that you got a problem with fucking magazines. Don’t go to the fucking company, you come and see me, you fucking got that? I’ll tell you what you do with the magazine, you roll it up and take it back where you fucking found it, now you fucking got that?” said Travis.

(It was Teck policy not to leave magazines inside company vehicles and Travis falsely believed Armstrong complained to management about him leaving a magazine inside company equipment.)

The interaction was witnessed by other members of the road crew and Rob Slapak, foreman, who intervened and told Travis to head to the showers. 

Travis’ face was “beet red” during the interaction, testified Armstrong, who later wrote a letter to the general manager requesting “the bullying and harassment to stop.”

The second incident took place on May 28. Colin Pinotti, another member of the road crew, was walking through the parking lot to hand in his timecard. 

Travis approached him and said, “What are you going to do when (your supervisor) dies and you don’t have a cock to suck?”

The following day, Travis phoned Pinotti and apologized for his comments.

Creighton Glober, human resource advisor, began an investigation into the two incidents. During questioning, he found that Travis “downplayed the incident,” was not “honest and forthcoming” and “did not take accountability.”

During another interview with management, Travis called his behaviour and manner of speaking “locker-room talk” that goes on all the time within the road crew.

On June 5, the company terminated Travis. 

“Guy, you are currently on a final letter for treatment of employees and the company is satisfied that you breached the code of conduct and treatment of employee policy to the point where the employment relationship is no longer viable. Your previous work history combined with these recent incidents have given us cause to terminate your employment effective immediately,” said the letter of dismissal.

The union, United Steelworkers (USW), Local 9346, grieved the firing.

Arbitrator Stan Lanyon dismissed the grievance.

“I conclude that (Travis) harassed and bullied Armstrong on May 16. He did it in front of Armstrong’s entire road crew in order to intimidate him and to show him up as a squealer in front of his fellow employees. Armstrong felt bullied, belittled, harassed and scared.”

“Although (Travis) denied that he had been verbally abusive towards Armstrong in the past, I accept Armstrong’s evidence that (Travis) has verbally made digs towards him over the years,” said Lanyon.

Travis’s discipline record at work — which included three counselling letters, two discipline notes, and two final letters — was referenced by the arbitrator as a determining factor. 

“(Travis) is a long-service employee: 24 years as of the date of his termination. However, his employment record is not free of discipline,” said Lanyon.

“I have decided that (Travis) cannot return to this workplace. There is no viable employment relationship that remains with this employer,” said Lanyon. 

“He has had two final letters of discipline. It is not appropriate to issue a third. (Travis) fully understands that he has been given several, and ‘rare’ chances to change his behaviour. He has failed to do so.”

Reference: Teck Coal and United Steelworkers, Local 9346. Stan Lanyon — arbitrator. David McDonald for the employer. Colin Gusikowski for the employee. June 20, 2018. 2018 CarswellBC 1777

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