County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Jeffrey S. Michaelson, Esq.
Defendant: Gerard P. Cobleigh, Esq. Carly B. Iafrate, Esq.
this Court is Rhode Island College's (RIC's) motion
to stay implementation of an arbitration award (Arbitration
Award) and RIC's motion to vacate the same. Rhode Island
Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Local 2878 (the Union) moves to
confirm the same Arbitration Award. Jurisdiction is pursuant
to G.L. 1956 § 28-9-14. For the reasons set forth in
this Decision, this Court grants RIC's motion to vacate
the Arbitration Award; RIC's motion to stay is moot; and
the Union's motion to confirm is denied.
the Union are parties to a collective bargaining agreement
(CBA). Pursuant to the CBA, RIC may discipline employees only
for just cause. See CBA, Art. 24. The CBA also
provides that when the Union or an employee challenges
RIC's decision to discharge an employee, the matter may
be submitted to arbitration. Id., Art. 25. In this
case, RIC terminated Robert Panciocco (the Grievant)
following an incident at the school. The Union grieved the
termination in accordance with the CBA, and it was submitted
arbitration hearing on December 18, 2013, both the Union and
RIC were represented by counsel, and the Grievant testified.
While there was no formal statement of an issue before the
arbitrator, the arbitrator framed the issue as: "Was the
Grievant . . . terminated from his employment for just cause?
And, if not, what shall be the remedy?" (RIC's Ex.
A, Arbitration Award dated Jan. 17, 2014 at 3).
Grievant worked at RIC for thirty-one years as of July 15,
2013, the date of the incident. Id. at 6. Prior to
the incident, the Grievant had a clean employment record
evidencing no previous discipline. Id.
date of the incident, the Grievant reported to his
housekeeper duties at Whipple Hall. Id. at 7.
According to the Grievant, at approximately 10:30 in the
morning, he became aware that he had his .22 caliber
semiautomatic pistol in his back pocket. Id. The gun
was fully loaded with six rounds in the magazine and one
round in the chamber. (Deputy Chief Casbarro Mem. July 22,
2013). The Grievant claimed that when he realized that he had
his gun on him, he went to put the gun in his car, but he
changed his mind when he saw that there were elementary
school children near his car. Arbitration Award at 7.
Therefore, the Grievant returned to work with the gun still
in his possession. He did not make anyone at RIC aware that
he had the gun on his person.
Grievant left work at approximately 1:20 p.m., as he had
previously received permission to leave work early on that
day. Id. According to the Grievant, at around 3:00
p.m. he realized that his gun was no longer in his pocket.
Id. When he realized this, the Grievant thought he
might have lost it in a bathroom while he was cleaning
Whipple Hall. Id. At that time, the Grievant,
for the first time, called RIC's Safety and Security
Office to report the situation. First, he spoke with the desk
officer, and, fifteen minutes later, he called back and spoke
with the lieutenant on duty. Id.
Safety and Security Office dispatched an officer to Whipple
Hall. The officer did not find the gun in a bathroom at
Whipple Hall. Id. While continuing his search, the
officer located the gun in a trash can near the front of
Whipple Hall. Id. The officer brought the gun back
to the campus police headquarters where it was unloaded.
Id. RIC's Safety and Security Office then told
the Grievant that the weapon had been found. Id.
26, 2013, the Grievant and his union representatives appeared
before RIC's interim director of human resources for a
pre-disciplinary hearing. Id. Following the hearing,
RIC sent the Grievant a letter dated July 30, 2013
(Termination Letter); the letter informed the Grievant that
RIC was terminating him effective August 1, 2013. On August
2, 2013, the Union filed a grievance on the Grievant's
behalf asserting that the Grievant had not been terminated
for just cause. Arbitration Award at 3, 7; see also
Official Grievance Form. RIC and the Union agreed to take the
grievance directly to arbitration. Arbitration Award at 8.
CBA and Policies on Workplace Violence
between RIC and the Union provides for arbitration.
See CBA, Art. 25-26. The Management Rights section
"The Union recognizes that except as specifically
limited, abridged or relinquished by the terms and provisions
of this agreement, all rights to manage, direct or supervise
the operations of the State and the employees are vested
solely in the State.
"For example, but not limited thereto, the employer
shall have the exclusive rights subject to the provisions of
this agreement and consistent with the applicable laws and
"A. To direct employees in the performance of the duties
of their positions;
"B. To hire, promote, transfer, assign, and retain
employees in positions within the bargaining units and to
suspend, demote, discharge, or take other disciplinary action
against such employees;
"E. To relieve employees from duties because of lack of
work or for other legitimate reasons." CBA, Art. 4.
24 of the CBA discusses Discipline and Discharge of
employees. It states:
"Disciplinary action may be imposed upon an employee
only for just cause. Any disciplinary action imposed upon an
employee may be processed as a grievance through the regular
grievance procedure as outlined in Article 25 . . . Where
appropriate, disciplinary action or measures shall include
only the following:
"1. Oral reprimand
"2. Written Reprimand
"5. Demotion where appropriate
"When any disciplinary action is to be implemented, the
Appointing Authority shall before or at the time such action
is taken, notify the employee and the Union in writing of the
specific reasons for such action." CBA, Art. 24.
following its discussion of the disciplinary action that may
be imposed upon employees, the CBA discusses the
employee's right to grieve the imposition of said
disciplinary action. If the grievance procedure is
unsuccessful, then the CBA provides that the matter may
proceed to arbitration.
case, the Grievant violated two policies on violence in the
workplace: one promulgated by the State and one promulgated
by the R.I. Board ...