Alleged mistreatment no excuse for safety violation

Maintenance Utility Man Jess Hargreaves felt that his supervisor, Maintenance Foreman Cliff Thorne, was giving him a disproportionate amount of the undesirable assignments because his boss had a grudge against him.
By Raymond Dreyfack December 1, 1998

Maintenance Utility Man Jess Hargreaves felt that his supervisor, Maintenance Foreman Cliff Thorne, was giving him a disproportionate amount of the undesirable assignments because his boss had a grudge against him. One day, he appeared at Thorne’s desk to complain about it.

“What’s the problem, Hargreaves?”

“This is the third time in a row you stuck me on cleaning out the sludge tanks. It’s the dirtiest job in the plant. How about giving it to someone else for a change?”

“Maybe next time. Right now you’re the only man available.”

“I could switch with Jenkins. He could do the sludge tanks. I could finish painting the storeroom.”

“I hand out the work around here, Hargreaves. Do the job you’re assigned, or clock out.”

“But — “

“You heard what I said. I’m busy. Get back to work.”

Hargreaves shuffled off, grumbling.

A few days later Thorne observed Hargreaves in a hazard risk area minus the safety helmet he was required to wear. This was the second time he was caught for the same offense. Thorne handed him a 30-day suspension, which the worker promptly protested, and recruited Plant Steward Lon Crouse to plead his case.

Crouse threatened to grieve on the grounds that Thorne was picking on him because of a personal grudge. To support his contention, he submitted a list of complaints, mainly related to assignments to prove that Hargreaves had indeed been given a disproportionate amount of the department’s least desirable tasks.

Question : If the worker’s complaints are justified, should this alter the suspension decision?

Metcalf’s verdict: In reviewing the case, Plant Engineer Alex Metcalf told Crouse, “If you feel Hargreaves is being prejudiced against in connection with work assignments, it’s your right to grieve on this basis. But that has nothing to do with the safety violation which is separate and apart from your beef about assignments. The suspension stands.”