A 57 year old employee with 36 years of service was properly
fired for one incident in which he cut another employee with a
knife, a labour arbitrator has decided.
The employee was a custodian with a textiles company. He carried
two "utility/box" cutting knives, which had short
retractable blades. While eating lunch one day, he became annoyed
when a co-worker banged on the lid of his Tupperware container,
causing several loud noises. The employee produced two utility
knives and said to the co-worker, "Would you like the curved
blade or the straight blade?" The employee began to swing one
utility knife towards the co-worker's legs, and then above the
table towards his chest. The co-worker reached out to grab the
employee's arm and, in his attempt to protect himself, received
a shallow cut to his forearm, which started to bleed. About an hour
later, while the co-worker was leaving the workplace, the employee
said, "You are lucky that I didn't stab you in the
The employer fired the employee. The union grieved the firing.
The employee was also charged with and pleaded guilty to the
criminal offences of assault with a weapon and uttering a
At arbitration, the arbitrator upheld the dismissal. He found
that there was no justification for the employee's outburst.
Rather, "it was simply an irrational act of anger".
Although the employee had obtained counselling and anger management
training his "unexplainable act" still made it
questionable as to whether he would do something similar in future.
Also, the harm to the co-worker could have been grave. Rather than
apologizing to the co-worker, the employee commented that "You
are lucky that I didn't stab you in the heart." Further,
the judge in the employee's criminal case ordered that he have
no contact with his injured co-worker, which made it very difficult
for the employee to return to work.
As a result, the arbitrator was not satisfied that the fact that
the employee received counselling and anger management training
provided sufficient confidence that he would not engage in similar
misconduct if he returned to work. The fact that the employee's
misconduct was an "unprovoked momentary outburst" was
"more of a concern than a consolation". Even though the
grievor was 57 years old and had 36 years of service, the discharge
was appropriate. This decision shows arbitrators' increasing
willingness to uphold employers' decisions to terminate for
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