"Loss of Value" for Excessive Absenteeism: A Case study.(Instructor's Note)

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CASE DESCRIPTION

The primary subject matter of this case is arbitration in a company with a powerful union. Other issues include absenteeism, FMLA, documentation, arbitrator's decisions, "Loss of value" letters, and Last Chance letters. The case has a difficulty level of being appropriate for senior level or first year graduate classes. The case is prepared for two hours of instruction and discussion. The students should receive the case earlier and be prepared to discuss the ramifications of the case together with the instructor.

CASE SYNOPSIS

This case involves an employee with an extended history of frequent and protracted absences over his employment of 17 years. When the company finally terminated him after going through all the options available to them, the union representing him naturally filed a grievance which progressed thorough the steps of the plant grievance procedure to arbitration. This case is exciting as it is based on first-hand knowledge of the situation. Students will have a sense of immediacy upon reading the case. It gives a perspective seldom available to undergraduate students in the meaning of "Loss of Value" and how such a case must be approached by management. It involves interesting exerts from previous Arbitrators' decisions, along with views on such cases from Authors Elkouri & Elkouri. The case involves interesting testimony during the arbitration hearing by both the grievant and his Union Representative as both give their perspectives on the case to the Arbitrator. This case also has serious implications during the negotiations of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the parties at the time of the sale of the plant to a new owner. Finally, there is a surprising caveat seldom experienced following an arbitrator's binding opinion and decision to both the Company and the Union.

INSTRUCTOR'S NOTES

Recommendations for Teaching Approaches

The students should be assigned the case and have read and studied the concepts prior to coming to class. In class, the students and instructor can summarize the case and offer what they believe to be the important concepts in the case. Each of the following questions can be discussed. This case offers students the opportunity to be a part of a real arbitration case and discover the challenges faced by management when they face a powerful and experienced union.

Questions:

1. Would a "Last Chance" letter been an appropriate response for this employer?

2. How powerful is the Arbitrator? Can he/she render a final judgment?

3. Why do companies resort to arbitration?

4. Why do unions resort to arbitration?

5. Under what situations are employees allowed to take FMLA leave? What are "qualifying events" which entitles an employee to take FMLA leave?

6. How is an arbitrator chosen?

7. What is 'light duty' and who determines that?

8. What are the most effective ways for providing a Company Position or Union Position during an Arbitration hearing?

9. What is Collective Bargaining?

10. Why have labor and management tended to treat each other as adversaries in the U.S. labor relations system?

11. What, in your opinion, is the most significant impact of a union on the management of Human Resources? Explain.

12. Portray yourself as the Arbitrator, how would you have ruled in this case? Please provide all of your reasons which support your opinion in this matter.

13. What is the issue in the above disciplinary case involving the termination of this employee?

14. What are the seven tests or questions for "Just Cause" which management must address in employee terminations?

Answers for Questions:

1. Possibly, particularly in cases involving an employee whose previous actions had shown more effort to improve his or her attendance record. However, in this particular case we have an employee of 17 years who had been provided numerous opportunities to correct his attendance and had not been successful. …