From A to Arbitration

Episode 12: Article 35 & Defending Against Charges Due to Alcohol & Drug Addiction

Corey discusses how to defend carriers in charges related to the disease of alcohol and/or drug addiction. He emphasizes that the union should advocate for a corrective, rather than a punitive, approach when dealing with carriers facing discipline due to alcohol or drug abuse, as outlined in Article 35 of the collective bargaining agreement. He advises shop stewards to encourage the carrier to seek help through the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) first and foremost.

Corey also stresses the importance of challenging management when they use covert surveillance of carriers on the street (M-39 134.2) and when they fail to follow the JCAM’s requirement to promptly notify the branch president after an accident (41.3P). He warns that management often uses these tactics to unfairly discipline carriers and that shop stewards must be vigilant in defending their rights.

C-01928: “What then, are the factors which would allow an arbitrator to mitigate the offense committed by the alcoholic which led to his removal from the postal service to order that he be reinstated by the postal service?”

C-33598 A&B: “As I’ve stated many times, there are certain deeds that certainly deserve removal action even on the first occurrence. Acts such as theft or involving physical violence provide only a few examples. And based on the language of the parties agreement, I’m of the considered opinion that not every case involving drug or alcohol abuse necessarily fit in the same category. 

C-02371: “A careful review of the evidence convinces this arbitrator that the grievant’s alcoholism was primarily responsible for the misconduct giving rise to his discharge. That the grievant is an alcoholic and has been one for sometime is undisputed. […] The arbitrator is convinced in this case that but for grievant’s drinking problem, he would not have committed the very foolish and serious acts involved. The evidence indicates that he now fully appreciates the problem and, through great personal effort, has complied with the requirements of the rehabilitation program and maintained sobriety for a long period of time. The record in this case, including grievant’s straightforward testimony, indicates that the prognosis for the future is good. These factors along with grievant’s twenty years of service persuade this arbitrator that discharge was too severe in this case. This does not mean that limits to which any employer can be expected to go help an alcoholic employee overcome his problem. The time does come when an employer may reasonably conclude that its efforts to encourage rehabilitation have failed and that prospects for substandard improvement are so slim that the employment relationship must be terminated.”

EAP provides free confidential counseling to all postal employees and their family members by trained outside professionals. It has confidentiality with a strict code of ethics and is easily accessible by calling 1-800-EAP-4YOU (1-800-327-4968) or visit https://usps.ndbh.com/EAP for more information.

Non-specific references in this episode:

Corey references an arbitration defending a gentleman struggling with methamphetamine addiction, where the arbitrator ruled in favor of the carrier, emphasizing that the carrier had already sought help and was making progress. 

Corey references an arbitration where a carrier was passed out at his station, and police and EMT were involved. The carrier asked for help and wrote a statement stating such, and management mocked the carrier in their opening statement. The arbitrator made a bench decision without getting to the merits of the case – she brought him back.

Corey references a decision from Linda de Leon Kelin, where a carrier left his route, bought alcohol, and became drunk. The grievant was given a final chance to salvage his employment. 

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