Would-be engineer fired for fraudulent wage claims

Staffer wrongly booked time off, arbitrator rules termination justified

Time to punch out. Mark Hammett — a locomotive engineer trainee with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company — was rightly terminated for submitting fraudulent wage claims, an arbitrator ruled.

Hammett was hired in 2007 and worked as a conductor in Fort Steele, B.C., prior to being accepted into the locomotive engineering training program. He was fired on July 30, 2012, for submitting fraudulent wage claims during the period between March 3, 2012, and April 15, 2012.

After booking off sick on April 8, 2012, Hammett was observed at the Fort Steele Heritage Park Easter event. He was assessed 15 demerit points for falsely booking off and an investigation was launched into Hammett’s absenteeism and work history.

The company audited Hammett’s time slips and discovered he had submitted wage claims for March 4, 5, 6 and 7 when he was unavailable for work. Hammett also claimed three days’ wages for bereavement leave for April 13, 14 and 15, 2012.

On March 3, 2012, Hammett drove to Cranbrook, B.C., his place of residence. Hammett’s trainmaster attempted to contact him on March 4 and March 6 to arrange his training schedule. When Hammett met with his trainmaster on March 7, he was unable to provide an explanation for his unavailability.

During the company’s investigation Hammett said his trainmaster had given him permission to take several days off to spend with his family, which the trainmaster denied. Hammett told the company he originally believed he was entitled to wage claims on those days because he was soliciting locomotive engineer trainers.

When asked to name some of the potential trainers he had solicited, Hammett was unable to provide any names. Instead, he told the company he "must have sent out a good 45-50 letters to various engineers." None of the letters were produced in the course of the investigation or hearing.

Hammett was, however, able to retroactively receive authorization for personal time off on March 4, 5 and 6, 2012.

On April 13, 14 and 15, 2012, Hammett booked himself as unavailable due to bereavement leave. When he initially submitted his claim for the three days’ compensation he failed to cite his relationship to the deceased. The claim was denied.

When he resubmitted the claim Hammett listed his grandfather as the deceased. His claim was approved on April 30, 2012.

At the same time he received approval for the claim Hammett also learned the company planned to launch an investigation into his attendance and work history. Two days later he withdrew the claim for bereavement on the basis he had been mistaken about his relationship to the deceased.

Hammett told the company his father had recently revealed to him the deceased was not his grandfather, as he had always believed, but his uncle.

The company contended Hammett was educated in the applicable provisions of the collective agreement and knew — at the time he submitted his claim — that the deaths of grandparents were covered but the deaths of uncles were not.

Hammett was subsequently fired for his deliberate submission of fraudulent wage claims.

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference filed a grievance on his behalf, requesting the discipline be removed in its entirety. The union requested Hammett be reinstated without loss of seniority and benefits, and that he be made whole for all lost earnings with interest.

"In submitting his claim for wages as he did, (Hammett) sought to deceive the company to obtain wages that he did not believe he was entitled to receive," arbitrator Christine Schmidt said in her ruling. "That conduct was fraudulent."

Schmidt ruled Hammett made wage claims with the intent to defraud the company, and found his dismissal to be justified.

Reference: Canadian Pacific Railway Company and Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. Christine Schmidt — arbitrator. A. Becker for the employer, D. Olson for the union. Jan. 27, 2014.

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