Flaherty & Hood Gets Discharge of Police Officer Upheld in Grievance Arbitration

Flaherty & Hood Shareholder Attorney Brandon Fitzsimmons successfully represented the City of Winona in a recent disciplinary grievance arbitration. This arbitration arose from a grievance filed by Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., the union for police officers in the city, challenging the city’s discharge of a police officer who lost his driving privileges for at least a year resulting from his criminal driving while impaired (DWI) charge and conviction.

At the arbitration hearing, the city presented evidence and arguments that it has a clear policy and practice of discharging employees who lose their driving privileges if driving is required for the job, the officer could not perform his job, the officer’s actions adversely impacted the reputation, finances and operations of city law enforcement, and the officer had prior discipline. The union argued that the discharge was not supported because the city was prohibited from discharging the employee under Minnesota’s drug and alcohol testing in the workplace act, the city disregarded progressive discipline, the employee performed well during his limited duty time, the employee had been sober since the incident and other employees were not discharged for criminal violations.

The arbitrator affirmed the city’s discharge decision for substantially the same reasons that precipitated the city’s discharge of him and substantially dismissed the union’s arguments. The award is available here.

This award demonstrates that employers should:

  • Establish a clear policy and uniform practice of handling all employees that lose their driving privileges required for their job; and
  • Consider and emphasize the impact on the workplace in determining how to handle the employee

For more information about this case or if you need assistance with labor relations and employment matters, please contact Brandon Fitzsimons at 651-225-8840 or bmfitzsimmons@flaherty-hood.com.

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