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Wipe out: Prison guard can’t keep job and remain biker gang’s “enforcer”

March 12th, 2015  |  David Stephanides

An Ohio prison corrections officer was justifiably terminated after his employer discovered that he had been secretly living a double life as a member of a criminal biker gang for the past four year. In fact, not only was he a member of the gang, he held the title of “enforcer” (State of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction, Franklin Medical Center and Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Local 11, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Craig A. Allen, Arbitrator).

The officer, the 14-year employee, filed a grievance contending that he was able to keep his two lives separate, as evidenced by the fact that his evaluations during the investigatory period were positive, and that he personally received no criminal convictions during his time in the gang. He also argued that his employer’s investigation and disciplinary action were fatally flawed, and he denied any knowledge that his gang was engaged in any criminal activities. To counteract these arguments, the employer pointed out that the officer knew the gang’s president had not only been convicted of a crime, but that he was also locked up in the same prison where the officer worked. It also pointed out that the officer had once been arrested in a police raid in which he was caught carrying two guns, but he was later released without the employer discovering the arrest because of his prison affiliation.

The arbitrator sustained the grievance. Every year since 2007, officers had been given training on outlaw motorcycle gangs, yet the officer never disclosed his affiliation. Furthermore, under employer rules, the officer was obligated to disclose his relationship with any prisoner, which he failed to do. His claim that the gang was simply a collection of people who wanted to ride motorcycles and have fun, rather than a criminal gang, was impossible to accept. (If for no other reason than that he held the title of “enforcer.”) Murders, assaults, and shootings were going on all around him, and gang members were going to prison. The woman who recruited him to the gang was a suspect in an attempted homicide.

The arbitrator concluded that the employee’s affiliation with this gang brought discredit to the employer and seriously compromised his ability to do his job. The fact that he received positive performance reviews did not offset the seriousness of his off-duty conduct, nor did the fact that he was not convicted of any crime. The employer’s investigation was complete and untainted, and it had just cause to terminate him.