BEFORE THE ARBITRATOR
In the Matter of the Arbitration of a Dispute Between
PARK FALLS SCHOOL DISTRICT
PARK FALLS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
(Joan Pond Grievance)
Pursuant to a request by Park Falls Education Association, herein the Association,
subsequent concurrence by Park Falls School District, herein the District, Dennis P.
appointed Arbitrator by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission on July 9, 1997
to the procedure contained in the grievance-arbitration provisions of the parties' collective
agreement, to hear and decide a dispute as specified below. The hearing was held in Park
Wisconsin on August 29, 1997. The hearing was transcribed, and the parties completed their
schedule on November 19, 1997.
After considering the entire record, I issue the following decision and Award.
Did the Administration violate the contract,
particularly Article 6, paragraph C, when
it suspended Joan Pond without pay for two days on May 6th and 7th of 1997?
If so, what is the appropriate remedy?
VI. ASSOCIATION AND TEACHER RIGHTS
. . .
C. No teacher shall be discharged,
suspended or disciplined without just cause.
At issue is whether the grievant, Joan Pond, was suspended for two (2) days without
just cause under the terms of the parties' collective bargaining agreement.
On Tuesday, May 6, 1997, the grievant arrived at her classroom shortly after 8:00
Sandy Vincent, an aide for the visually impaired. The room was cold, and the grievant
"chilled." The grievant then called the high school office. She spoke with Brigette Jeske,
school secretary, and informed her "that she refused to work under these conditions and that
going home." Thereafter, the grievant went to the teachers' lounge to have a cup of coffee
up prior to leaving the school.
Thereafter, by letter dated May 6, 1997, the District suspended the grievant as
It is my belief that you left the school building
and school grounds without just cause.
Your absence from class ignored both professional practices and personal responsibilities,
and it has
therefore become necessary for me to take the following administrative position.
My conclusion is that your absence from class
was improper and neglectful. You will
be held liable for this action. As a result of this incident, you are hereby reprimanded for
with loss of pay on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 6 and May 7, 1997.
The District argues that there was just cause for its action while the Association takes
The Association initially makes a number of arguments in support of its principal
this is a sick leave dispute, not an improper job action as argued by the District. The
however, does not support a finding regarding same. In this regard, the Arbitrator
points out that it is undisputed that the grievant left school on the day in question
that she was sick instead simply informing the high school secretary that "she refused to
these conditions and that she was going home." 1 The grievant did testify that she "assumed" the
high school secretary knew that she was sick "because I had called so many times about the
heat in my room." 2 However, the grievant
admitted that she didn't say that she didn't feel well to
the secretary. 3 In addition, the record
contains no evidence that the grievant told anyone material
herein that she was sick prior to leaving school on the date in question. Based on the
Arbitrator finds nothing in the record to support a finding that the District could have
known that the grievant was ill when she left school on May 6, 1997.
To the contrary, based on the grievant's past complaints regarding the cold
her classroom it was more likely for the District to assume that the grievant was protesting
classroom when she informed them that she was leaving the school and would not tolerate
conditions. Therefore, it was proper in the Arbitrator's opinion for the District to take the
it did as a result of the grievant's action; namely, send the maintenance supervisor to see if
a problem and correct it. Since the problem (a cold classroom) 4 was resolved prior to the grievant's
first class, 5 it was reasonable at the time for
the District to "assume" that the grievant had left the
school grounds without a proper reason, especially given her aforesaid stated reasons for
The grievant testified contrary to the above that she came to work on the date in
feeling well, and that the "chill" in the room made her sick. 7 However, as noted above, she
informed no one from the District of this fact at any time material herein. 8 Nor did Sandy Vincent,
an aide who was with her during her short stay at school on May 6th, corroborate this claim.
the grievant did not submit any written documentation from a doctor or pharmacy to support
claim. In the absence of same, and in light of the grievant's past practice of protesting the
temperatures in her classroom, the Arbitrator finds that the District acted reasonably in
actions on the date in question as unprofessional conduct as outlined in the aforesaid
letter. Based on all of the foregoing, and the record as a whole, the Arbitrator finds that the
left school on the aforesaid date because she was upset over cold temperatures in her
because she was sick. Therefore, the Arbitrator finds it reasonable to conclude that the
proven that the grievant is guilty of the actions complained of.
Assuming arguendo, however, that the grievant was sick
on the date in question, she still
acted improperly as outlined in the District's suspension letter. In this regard, the Arbitrator
out that the high school principal testified unrefuted by the Association that the proper
a teacher who becomes ill or sick at the beginning of the school day is to report same to the
school principal so that he can cover for the teacher. 9 The grievant admits that she failed to do so.
In addition, if a teacher needs a substitute they usually wait around until
the sub comes in so that materials can be exchanged and a smooth transition can be
10 The grievant failed to do this. An
exception exists where the teacher is too ill to stick around.
11 There is no evidence in the record that this
was the case with the grievant on the date in question.
To the contrary, the record indicates that the grievant felt well enough to go to the teachers'
first to have a cup of coffee before she went home.
The Association also argues that just cause did not exist for suspending the grievant
the District did not conduct a proper investigation before issuing the discipline. However,
Arbitrator finds that the District made a reasonable assumption based on the grievant's
actions on the date in question and her past behavior protesting cold temperatures in her
that the grievant was leaving school in protest of the cold temperatures in her classroom; and
to find out if this was true and take corrective action. As a result of its investigation, the
determined that the classroom would have been heated properly at least by the time the
class was scheduled. 13 Since the grievant
was not present to take her first class, and offered no
explanation to the high school principal when he talked to her about it other than to explain
"was sick of those conditions and was not going to work under those conditions and went
14 the Arbitrator finds that the District
conducted a reasonable investigation before taking
disciplinary action against her. 15 However,
assuming arguendo, that the District made mistakes
by the manner in which it conducted its investigation of the grievant, the Association has not
that the grievant was prejudiced in any material way regarding same.
Based on all of the above, the Arbitrator finds that the answer to the issue as
stipulated to by
the parties is NO, the Administration did not violate Article VI, Section C, or any other
the contract, when it suspended the grievant without pay for two days on May 6th and 7th of
In reaching this conclusion, the Arbitrator rejects any mitigation of the penalty imposed
on the grievant's long history of service to the District 16 because the grievant was disciplined during
the prior school year for acting unprofessionally by pouring hot coffee on a student during an
altercation. 17 The Arbitrator also finds that
the District considered a number of different and
appropriate factors, i.e. the adverse effect on her students by leaving suddenly, before
two day suspension without pay on the grievant. 18
In view of all of the foregoing, and absent any persuasive evidence or argument to
contrary, it is my
That the grievance is hereby denied and the matter is dismissed.
Dated at Madison, Wisconsin this 22nd day of December, 1997.
Dennis P. McGilligan /s/
Dennis P. McGilligan, Arbitrator
1. Tr. at 9.
2. Tr. at 75.
4. Tr. at 84.
5. Tr. at 50-51.
6. Tr. at 59.
7. Tr. at 79.
8. In arriving at this conclusion, the Arbitrator credits the
testimony of the high school principal over
that of the grievant. In this regard, the Arbitrator notes, contrary to the Association's
the high school principal wrote in his notes from the date in question (District Exhibit No. 2)
grievant informed him "that she was sick of this," not that she was sick. Contrary to the
claim, this is entirely consistent with his testimony on the date of the hearing that the first
learned that the grievant was alleging that she was sick on May 6, 1997 was when she
grievance. Tr. at 61. The grievant, on the other hand, offered no persuasive evidence or
to support her claim that she was ill on the date in question or that she informed the high
principal prior to the imposition of discipline that she was ill that morning and went home
of same. She offered no credible reason for waiting approximately two and one-half hours
calling the high school principal to explain that she was ill especially in light of her earlier
that she assumed that the high school office understood that she was ill because of her past
over the temperature in her classroom. In addition, in contrast to the high school principal
testified clearly and concisely as to the sequence of events on the date in question, the
testimony was unbelievable, Tr. at 79, vague, Tr. at 81, unresponsive, Tr. at 79, and
Based on the foregoing, the Arbitrator finds that the grievant did not inform the high school
at 10:30 a.m. on May 6th, 1997, that she left school earlier that day because she was
ill as she
claimed, Tr. at 77, but instead simply told him later that morning that she left school
in protest of the
cold conditions in her classroom. Tr. at 57. This was the only information he had when he
to impose a two (2) day suspension on the grievant. Tr. at 57-59.
9. Tr. at 72.
10. Tr. at 73.
12. Tr. at 76.
13. Tr. at 50-51.
14. Tr. at 57-58.
15. Tr. at 58-64, District Exhibit No. 2
16. Tr. at 77-78.
17. Tr. at 62-63.
18. Tr. at 62-66.