Gander, N.L. airport screening officer caught moonlighting on medical leave

Breach of trust, lengthy period of dishonesty: arbitrator

Gander, N.L. airport screening officer caught moonlighting on medical leave
Gordon Wheaton (Shutterstock)

A Newfoundland and Labrador worker requested accommodation for a medical condition and later a leave of absence for another, but he was found to be working at a second job instead of recovering.

Rick Parsons worked as a screening officer at the Gander airport for Securitas Transport Aviation Security. He was hired by the company’s predecessor in 2003. His job duties included ensuring that passengers and baggage were screened safely in accordance with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), often with little or no supervision.

In March 2018, Parsons requested accommodation for medical reasons by having work hours restricted to the day shift and he also claimed he suffered from sleep apnea. Parsons later provided a doctor’s note recommending a two-month trial period of day shifts.

On Aug. 9, Parsons went on unpaid medical leave with a note from his doctor saying the leave should run for two weeks. A few days before his scheduled return, Parsons produced a note that said he needed another two weeks off until Sept. 11 due to plantar fasciitis in his foot.

However, the security service manager learned that Parsons had been working for a security contractor at a local Walmart store while on medical leave. The contractor, said Parsons, had been working the overnight shift for the past two weeks and the work required him to stand.

At an interview, Parsons denied working for another company while on medical leave, but Securitas confirmed again with the other employer that Parsons had been working 12-hour shifts going back several months.

On Sept. 27, the company terminated Parsons’ employment for abuse of his medical leave of absence, breaching the high level of trust needed for his position as well as the company’s code of ethics.

The United Steelworkers (USW), Local 9342 grieved the dismissal, and argued Parsons made “one bad decision in his 16 years of employment” and shouldn’t have been let go. Securitas also failed to follow the collective agreement article on discharge and disciplinary procedure, which emphasized “corrective discipline” and a four-step disciplinary process, it said.

Three weeks after his dismissal, Parsons sent a letter of apology, but he continued to deny working for another company while on leave, saying he was just visiting a friend working at the Walmart and it was a misunderstanding.

However, the position of screening officer required “a high level of trust and integrity,” and this was supported by the company’s code of ethics, said arbitrator James Oakley.

Parsons requested accommodation to work only day shifts when he was working nights for another employer, and then claimed he couldn’t work due to a foot problem. But he was working elsewhere in a job that involved standing and these were a breach of trust with the company so there was no doubt discipline was warranted, said Oakley.

While the collective agreement outlined a progressive discipline process, the same article also stated that progressive discipline was dependent on “the severity of the infraction” and examples of cases that would support discharge included dishonesty, said the arbitrator.

Parsons had no disciplinary record and 16 years of service, but Oakley disagreed with the union’s argument that it was an isolated incident. Parson’s dishonesty began with his request for accommodation in March 2018 and continued through his medical leave until September, which was six months.

This was a lengthy period of misconduct, for which Parsons failed to apologize at either the investigative interview or the termination meeting. In addition, the letter of apology doubled down on the dishonesty by trying to further cloud the situation, according to Oakley.

The arbitrator determined that Parsons’ “continuing acts of dishonesty over a lengthy period of time” made it impossible to restore the employment relationship and were serious enough to bypass any consideration of progressive discipline and move directly to dismissal for cause.

Reference: United Steelworkers, Local 9342 and Securitas Transport Aviation Security Ltd. James Oakley — arbitrator. Jack Graham for the employer. Ron Thomas, Boyd Bussy for the employee. June 12, 2019. 2019 CarswellNfld 356

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