Three-day suspension found to be unreasonable: arbitrator
A British Columbia arbitrator found a hotel housekeeper’s suspension for cleaning mistakes was too harsh in the context of an environment where many had trouble getting their work done properly.
Dulce Conchada worked as a housekeeper for the Holiday Inn and Suites Downtown Vancouver — a 245-room hotel in Vancouver. She was hired in 2009.
The collective agreement set out normal quotas for housekeepers as 16 rooms cleaned over the course of an eight-hour shift. In circumstances where more than nine of the rooms assigned to a particular housekeeper, the room assignment for that housekeeper was to be reduced to 15.
In late 2018, some of the housekeepers at the hotel felt the hotel’s cleaning standards were making it difficult for them to complete their assigned rooms in time. As a result, some made mistakes or had to work through their breaks to get the rooms cleaned by the end of their shift. In November and December, there was a large number of mistakes made by housekeeping staff. Conchada made more frequent mistakes than the others, though she and other housekeepers were encouraged to ask for help when the needed it.
Conchada did ask for help occasionally but she had received discipline such as suspensions and warnings for not cleaning her assigned rooms enough.
Conchada was also a union supporter and was vocal about workplace issues and, along with a couple of other employees, pushed for labour-management meetings to discuss workload levels.
On Dec. 7, 2018, the housekeeping manager found one of Conchada’s assigned rooms had an unclean toilet, a dirty fridge, a Bible with writing in it, and dirty faucets. Some of Conchada’s other rooms were checked and four of them all had issues including dirty bathroom floors, dust on a TV cabinet, dirty glasses, a fridge full of ice and dirty coffee trays.
The housekeeping manager felt it was a lot of mistakes for one day and she had been fighting “a constant battle” with Conchada every week to get her to meet the hotel’s cleaning standards.
As a result, the hotel decided to suspend Conchada for three days.
The union grieved the suspension, arguing that the standards to which Conchada and other housekeepers were held were unreasonable. It also claimed the hotel discriminated against Conchada because of her vocal concerns about workplace issues, pointing to instances where other employees made cleaning mistakes similar to Conchada but weren’t disciplined.
The arbitrator found that while some employees who made similar mistakes to Conchada were not disciplined, there union didn’t provide any evidence as to how many mistakes they made compared to Conchada. Given that the housekeeping manager had indicated Conchada had made mistakes on a number of occasions and wasn’t improving, the evidence supported the fact that Conchada’s circumstances were different and more deserving of discipline than other employees who weren’t disciplined.
As a result, there was no discrimination based on Conchada’s vocal union support, said the arbitrator.
The arbitrator also found that the collective agreement standard of cleaning 16 rooms in an eight-hour shift had not been challenged by the union when the collective agreement was negotiated, so the union couldn’t argue it was unreasonable for the hotel to assign that number for housekeepers to clean.
However, the arbitrator noted that it was clear that sometimes housekeepers had difficulty completing their work properly without mistakes. Though Conchada’s mistakes were more numerous and frequent that some others, there was a large number of mistakes made by all housekeepers in November and December 2018. This “overall problem of housekeepers sometimes not being able to complete their work” should have been taken into account when determining Conchada’s discipline, the arbitrator said.
The arbitrator determined that the three-day suspension was excessive and substituted a written letter of reprimand and warning in its place.
Reference: Reunion Properties and UNITE-HERE, Local 40 (Dulce Conchada 3 Day Suspension). Gabriel Somjen — arbitrator. Kevin Wooliams for employer. Mike Miskar for employee. March 26, 2019. 2019 CarswellBC 1188