United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO-CLC, Plaintiff,
EAGLEPICHER TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Defendant.
FINDINGS OF FACT & CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DOUGLAS HARPOOL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Court held a bench trial in this matter on January 21, 2016.
Following the presentation of evidence, the Court left the
record open to accommodate the videotaped deposition of
defense witness Douglas Hamel. The Court ordered the parties
to submit their closing arguments through written submissions
and to brief the legal issues presented. Upon review of the
trial record as a whole, the Court hereby enters the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Defendant EaglePicher Technologies, LLC
(“EaglePicher” or “Company”) operates
a manufacturing facility in Joplin, Missouri that produces
specialty batteries for military and other use. Trial Tr. 5,
10, 14, 105; Hamel Tr. 9; Doc. 51, at 3.
Prior to April 11, 2016, Plaintiff United Steel, Paper and
Forestry Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and
Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO-CLC
(“Union”) represented a bargaining unit of
approximately 200 hourly production and maintenance employees
at the Company's facility on “C” and Porter
Streets in Joplin, Missouri. Trial Tr. 40; Hamel Tr.
David Jackson was employed by EaglePicher in the bargaining
unit at the Joplin facility from June 1981 until his
termination in January 2014. Trial Tr. 51. For his last 14
years at EaglePicher, Jackson was a group leader over parts
fabrication and worked in the dry room where batteries were
assembled. Trial Tr. 58-59. Jackson was Vice President of
Local 812L for approximately six years prior to his
termination. Trial Tr. 60; Hamel Tr. 32.
Peggy Johnson was employed by EaglePicher in the bargaining
unit at the Joplin facility from 1986 until her termination
in January 2014. Trial Tr. 97. Johnson worked in the dry room
for most of her time at EaglePicher, and she was a parts
fabricator for her last 10-12 years. Trial Tr. 98. Johnson
was a Union steward for at least 15 years prior to her
termination. Trial Tr. 100.
Teresa Buckmaster has been employed in the bargaining unit at
the Joplin facility for 36 years. Tr. 13. She has worked in
the dry room and her current position requires her to visit
the dry room several times a day. Tr. 14-15. Buckmaster has
been president of Local 812L since 2008. Tr. 16.
Douglas Hamel worked for EaglePicher in Human Resources for
approximately 11 years and was the Company's Human
Resources Director from 2010 to 2014 (the highest ranking HR
position and responsible for eight or nine EPT facilities in
the U.S. and Canada). Hamel Tr. 6-7.
most recent collective bargaining agreement between the
Company and the Union expired on May 2, 2008 but the Court
found the Union's acceptance of terms and conditions
unilaterally implemented by the Company after bargaining to
impasse created an interim agreement such that the Court has
jurisdiction under Section 301 of the Labor Management
Relationship Act of 1947. Doc. 51, at 3, 7-8. The Court found
the interim agreement does not require arbitration of
grievances but does require proper cause for discipline or
discharge. Doc. 51, at 9-12.
of the Company's operations are conducted in “dry
room” facilities where humidity is maintained at less
than 1% to prevent adverse reactions with lithium and other
chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Hamel Tr. 27.
Company has long had a rule prohibiting eating or drinking in
the “dry room” operations where certain battery
products are assembled. Hamel Tr. 8-9; Trial Tr. 6, 32, 75.
Lithium, which is used in the dry room, is highly flammable
and can start a fire if it comes into contact with liquids.
Hamel Tr. 8.
Food can cause contamination of batteries, and eating or
drinking in the dry room can be a safety hazard if chemicals
used in the production process were to be ingested. Hamel Tr.
Signs posted outside the dry room prohibit liquids in the dry
room but do not mention a prohibition of food. Trial
Tr. 16, 105.
Supervisors are responsible for training hourly employees
working in the dry room regarding the rules of food and
drink. Hamel Tr. 27.
2009, disciplinary actions were initiated against both
Jackson and Johnson and they were disciplined for eating and
drinking in the dry room. Trial Tr. 33, 71, 75, 90-91, 101.
The company initially determined they were to be suspended
for three days each, but the Union grieved the suspensions.
The grievances were settled by the company with an agreement
to reduce the discipline from a suspension to a written
warning. Trial Tr. 33, 71, 101; Hamel Tr. 33-34. The
settlement agreement states that “[t]he Company and the
Union agree that it is a serious violation of Company rules,
and extremely dangerous for any employee to bring any
liquids (emphasis added) into any of the
Company's dry rooms” and “any violation of
this rule is serious misconduct, which will subject
an employee who violates the rule to severe disciplinary
action, up to and including termination of employment.”
Def. Ex. 1. The settlement makes no mention of eating in the
dry room, and includes no discussion of eating in the dry
room as a hazard, or any disciplinary consequence of eating
in the dry room.
some point between 2009 and 2014, bargaining unit employee
Jake Tillman was suspended three days for drinking soda pop
in the dry room. Trial Tr. 35; Hamel Tr. 11.
Between approximately 2009 and 2014, there was a community
candy jar in the dry room that employees, including
supervisors, would take candy from and eat. Supervisors would
hand out bags of candy in the dry room around holidays and
employees would open the bags and eat the candy in the dry
room. Trial Tr. 65-68, 70, 72, 82, 91-92, 102-103.
Supervisors of the dry room instructed employees to hide the
community candy jar during an audit but would permit the
employees to bring the candy jar back after completion of the
audit. Trial Tr. 67-68.
Supervisors regularly ate food in their offices adjacent to
the dry ...