Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dairy farm argues arbitrator overreached in firing of employee

Federal Court

By John Breslin | Dec 17, 2019

Arb

EAST ST. LOUIS - A co-operative dairy farm is asking a federal court to vacate an arbitrator's ruling that an employee should be reinstated to his position despite a finding there was "just cause" for the firing.

Prairie Farms of Carlinville, in its Nov. 26 filing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, names as defendants the Central Conference of Teamsters and its local Union 525.

The filing asks the court to vacate the arbitrator's decision ordering the reinstatement of former employee Terry Laney. The teamsters did not respond to a request for comment from the Record.

The complaint argues the arbitrator exceeded his power - under the collective bargaining provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act - to make that order after finding there was a "serious just cause" for the sacking

At the core of the case is the April 10, 2018, firing of Laney for alleged insubordination and using threatening language to a supervisor.

According to the complaint, Laney spent too long on a break and was admonished by a supervisor. The worker told the supervisor to write him up and began to walk away, but the verbal clash escalated. Laney reportedly told the supervisor that he was "soft" and threatened to "whip his ass." He further stated that he did not "give a damn about the red shirts." Supervisors wear red shirts.

Following his dismissal the case went to arbitration and a hearing was held in January 2019. The arbitrator issued a decision in August.

While the arbitrator did find "just cause" for the firing, he also said the employee should have his job back without back pay.

Prairie Farms argues that the arbitrator simply does not have the authority to order reinstatement if there was good cause for the sacking.

The plaintiff is represented by attorney Matthew B. Robinson of Hesse Mortone of St. Louis.

US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois Case number 19-cv-1302.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois East St. Louis