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Bring junior archery set to work, get fired

February 12th, 2015  |  David Stephanides

A Seattle bus driver arrived for work one day carrying a junior archery set still in its original packaging. He brought the set to work because the store where he intended to return the gift (it had been bought for a friend’s son) was near where he typically took his break. The set consisted of a junior-sized bow, two metal tipped arrows, and a plastic carrying case (Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 587 and King County Metro Transit, Nov. 21, 2014, Robert Landau, Arbitrator).

The shop steward saw the archery set, warned the bus driver that it might be considered a weapon, and then reported the incident to the window dispatcher, who helped launch an investigation. By the time management began making inquiries, the bus driver had returned the set to the store, as originally intended. Upon being confronted by the inquiry, the driver said that he knew that the he could not bring weapons to work but that this was a toy intended for children. The employer disagreed and terminated him for violating the workplace violence prevention policy, at which point he filed a grievance.

According to the employer’s violence prevention policy, employees were prohibited from using, threatening, or possessing a weapon while on duty. It defined “weapon” as any object or instrument “designed in such a manner to inflict harm or injury to another person, or used in a manner threatening harm or injury to another person.” In this case, because the set was never used threateningly, the arbitrator’s decision depended upon whether it was “designed to inflict harm or injury.”

The employer argued that the packaging warned that the set was not a toy and that the store kept the product in a glass case under lock and key. The arbitrator, however, thankfully took a rational approach and concluded that the set was designed to teach children eight years and older about archery and shooting at targets rather than to inflict harm or injury. The fact that a person could harm someone else with the set, if used improperly, did not transform it into something that had been designed to inflict harm. The arbitrator also pointed out that the employer failed to give the employee notice that the item would be considered a weapon and could subject him to termination. For all of those reasons, plus the fact that the employee had a 23-year clean employment record, the grievance was sustained and the employee was ordered to be reinstated and made whole again, including back pay.