It's Valentine's Day & Labor Arbitration Is In the Air

Rose VDay LE

What’s Labor Arbitration Got to Do with It?

Labor arbitration might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about Valentine’s Day, and as much as I would have loved to write about flowers and chocolate, let’s first consider why it shouldn’t be last on the list this time of year.

That’s the Way Labor Arbitration Goes

In Southwest Airlines, 132 LA 1539, Arbitrator Daniel F. Jennings upheld the employer’s decision to terminate the grievant, who sent inappropriate messages to a co-worker on Valentine’s Day, threatened to harm his reputation at work, and later distributed “extremely offensive and defamatory” documents about said co-worker to a large number of employees.

Prior to their break-up, the grievant had been involved in a “long relationship” with the co-worker. Upon learning that he had married another woman, the grievant became “extremely upset” and hostile. On Valentine’s Day, she sent him a message “threatening to leave something damaging about him” in other employees’ mailboxes at work. Concerned, he reported the threats to both the company and union. The threats continued and, shortly thereafter, the grievant delivered a letter to the company mailboxes of the ex-boyfriend and several other employees.

Arbitrator Jennings concluded that the letter, which contained “obscene, inappropriate and derogatory” language “was written to not only harass” the complainant, “but to harm him,” and the grievant’s actions “had no place in the workplace.”

Similarly, in B-Way Corp., 121 LA 1411, Arbitrator Elliott H. Goldstein held that the employer had just cause to discharge the grievant, who, like the grievant in Southwest Airlines, sent unwelcome messages to another employee on Valentine’s Day. 

Prior to the final incident, the grievant had developed a history of harassing the complainant. This included sending her notebooks filled with explicit messages and spreading rumors about her alleged involvement in an extra-marital affair. Then, on Valentine’s Day, the grievant sent the complainant a production ticket with a Valentine’s note written on the back.

Although the grievant claimed that he was only attempting “to keep the ‘lines of communication open,’” Arbitrator Goldstein found that this failed to pass the common sense test as complainant had previously pleaded with him to stop spreading rumors about her. The arbitrator concluded that “no sensible person would think that she would welcome a Valentine’s Day message from the Grievant."

Likewise, Arbitrator Joyce M. Najita concluded in Oahu Transit Services, 122 LA 161, that the employer had just cause to terminate the grievant, who engaged in sexual harassment when he asked the employer’s passenger, a minor, about her Valentine’s Day celebration and hugged her without invitation.

The grievant, a bus operator, was working a shift the day after Valentine’s Day when the passenger, a minor, boarded the bus. The grievant proceeded to flirt with the passenger, insinuating that he had a crush on her and asking numerous personal questions, including how she celebrated Valentine’s Day. The grievant later followed the passenger into a mall, where he grabbed and hugged her.

All things considered, Arbitrator Najita found that the grievant’s behavior constituted sexual harassment and that his otherwise good work record was outweighed by this fact.

And They Worked Happily Ever After 

These Valentine’s Day stories may not teach us a lot about love, but they do teach us a lot about labor arbitration, specificially what not to do this holiday season, or ever. Keep them in mind, and maybe you’ll find your own “happily ever after,” at least in the workplace.

Get up-to-date news and expert analysis from respected practitioners and Bloomberg BNA's legal editors, and practical research tools with a free trial to the Labor & Employment Law Resource Center.