Is an error sufficient grounds for dismissal?

Instrument Repairman Alex Corning had an exemplary record over his 6 yr of employment. But one unfortunate day, he dropped a delicate and expensive lab instrument while it was being serviced.


Instrument Repairman Alex Corning had an exemplary record over his 6 yr of employment. But one unfortunate day, he dropped a delicate and expensive lab instrument while it was being serviced. The jolt broke some components and threw a number of dials and gauges out of kilter. Damage was estimated in excess of $2000.

It couldn't have happened at a worse time. Not only was the plant on an economy drive, but Maintenance Supervisor Phil Forrester was on the carpet for being days behind schedule on important projects. Pressures and tempers were high.

When Corning anxiously reported the mishap, Forrester flew off the handle. "That does it!" he barked, and accused the repairman of gross negligence. "If you exercised normal care, it couldn't have happened."

Forrester instructed Corning to clock out and told him he'd receive his final check in the mail.

The repairman was stunned. "I have a good work record. Anyone can make an error."

"Not an error like this." Forrester refused to back down.

"I may deserve to be disciplined," Corning insisted, "but discharge is too harsh." He made a beeline for the plant steward.

Question: Do you agree that dismissal is too harsh a penalty?

Gleason's decision: "Not only does Corning have a good record," Plant Engineer Gary Gleason told Forrester, "but he was honest in taking blame for the accident, and no willful or reckless behavior was involved. Add to that the way he must feel after dropping that instrument. He's been punished enough. In my view a week's suspension will be more than adequate under the circumstances."

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