Too much time in the morgue leads to termination

Hospital porter should stick to own job, arbitrator rules

A hospital porter’s career was killed after he spent too much time in the morgue.

William Moody, a casual and relief porter for the emergency department of the Victoria Union Hospital in Prince Albert, Sask., was fired after he failed to show up for a shift.

Moody also worked as a casual relief morgue attendant in the hospital’s laboratory services.

On Aug. 2, 2011, Moody failed to show up to his scheduled shift in the emergency department. He did, however, work in the lab for part of that day assisting in an autopsy.

In the six-month period leading up to Aug. 2, Moody was disciplined on two occasions for leaving the hospital without permission before completing his shift in the emergency department.

On both occasions Moody had received permission to work part of his shift in the lab performing an autopsy.

Instead of returning to the emergency department after completing his shift, Moody left the hospital.

Autopsies generally take three to four hours. Moody was never refused leave to assist in the lab, even when his fellow employees complained his absences added to their workload.

Moody began his work as a porter and morgue attendant for the hospital in 2006.

He testified he was proud of his job as a morgue attendant but felt he was never truly a part of the emergency department team and described his relationship with the unit manger as "rocky."

In the summer of 2009 a practice was established requiring Moody to provide notice to his supervisor when he was leaving the emergency department to attend the lab to assist in an autopsy. Moody failed to provide notice on more than one occasion and was disciplined with a written reprimand in the fall of 2009.

In early 2011 the policy was changed. At his supervisor’s request, the lab notified her directly when Moody was needed to assist in an autopsy.

In 2011 Moody received two separate suspensions for failing to return to work in the emergency department following an autopsy. He testified that, in his view, he did not leave work early on either occasion because his work in the lab was complete. He said the union did not properly grieve on his behalf.

Inaccurate scheduling information

On Aug. 2, 2011, Moody did not show up for his shift in the emergency department. His supervisor subsequently discovered he had been working in the lab assisting in an autopsy until 1:30 p.m.

A meeting was arranged to discuss the incident on Aug. 23 but Moody did not show up or call in to let the emergency department know he would not be at work.

Moody said he was in the emergency department as a patient on the day before the Aug. 23 meeting and was seen by his supervisor. He concluded the supervisor should have known he would not be at work the following day as a result. Moody was terminated on Aug. 24.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4777 grieved the termination as a violation of the collective agreement and asked for Moody to be made whole and compensated as the arbitrator deemed necessary.

Moody testified he called the scheduling supervisor on July 30 to find out what days he was scheduled to work the following week.

He testified he was told to report to work on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Moody said he was surprised he was not scheduled to work on Tuesday, Aug. 2, as he was usually scheduled on Tuesdays and it was unusual to have one day off in between working days.

When Moody received a call from the lab about an autopsy on Aug. 2 he said he was "off" and therefore available to assist.

In his testimony, Moody blamed scheduling for providing him with inaccurate information.

Scheduling is made available to employees by access to a computer program. The schedule is also posted in the emergency department’s nursing station along with a daily flow sheet.

The daily flow sheet lists the names of the employees who are scheduled to work shifts on a given day. The daily flow sheet listed Moody as being scheduled to work as a porter in the emergency department on Aug. 2.

‘Doesn’t apply to me’

Moody testified the daily flow sheet was not the master rotation schedule referred to in the collective agreement, saying the daily flow sheet is a "guideline," "not written in stone," not a "legally binding document," and "doesn’t apply to me."

In its ruling, the arbitration board said it doubted Moody called scheduling on July 30, or, if he did make the call, that scheduling misinformed him of his work schedule for the following week.

"In our view," the board said, "the grievor has been quick to blame everyone but himself for his absences at work in the emergency department. It is, in our view, a deliberate plan on the grievor’s part to put forward a story that best suits his purposes at the time, with little or no consideration as to whether or not he is telling the truth."

The board went on to say even if scheduling had misinformed Moody about his work schedule, someone who was surprised to learn he was not scheduled to work on a Tuesday should have checked with the posted daily flow sheet.

"It would have been incumbent upon the grievor to look at the daily flow sheet... that he did not demonstrates, in our view, a negligent and reckless disregard of the grievor’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements to attend work," the board said in its decision.

Considering the progressive discipline for similar misconduct leading up to the Aug. 2, incident, the board ruled Moody’s termination was not excessive.

The grievance was dismissed.

Reference: Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations representing the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. William F.J. Hood, Andy Friedrich and Peter Tartsch — Arbitration board. Michael Phillips for the employer and Merv Simonot for the union. March 14, 2013.

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