Last month, Arbitrator Stephen Befort denied the grievance of a Faribault County deputy who claimed the County did not have just cause to terminate his employment. Deputy Dulac was terminated by the Faribault County Sheriff’s office for misconduct surrounding two different issues. The first issue involved his off-duty conduct at a bar where he failed to secure evidence of criminal behavior. The second issue involved him repeatedly pointing his loaded service weapon at other deputies as gunplay.
Arbitrator Befort found the incident at the bar where Deputy Dulac failed to secure custody of some Vicodin pills as evidence of possible criminal behavior warranted discipline but was not substantial enough to warrant discharge. Arbitrator Befort, then turned his analysis to the second issue involving the pointing of his loaded service weapon at fellow employees.
This is not the first time, Arbitrator Befort has heard a case about gunplay in the workplace. In 2005, Arbitrator Befort reduced a termination to a 30-day suspension for a deputy in Washington County who was accused of inappropriately pointing his gun at coworkers. Arbitrator Befort stated in his award, the difference between the Washington County case and the current case was in Washington County there was evidence the supervisors were aware of the conduct, and never told the deputy to stop the behavior. Additionally, in Washington County there was evidence of a culture of gunplay in the department. Neither of these factors were present in the Faribault County case.
Arbitrator Befort agreed that Deputy Dulac’s actions of pointing a loaded gun at fellow employees was serious misconduct. Deputy Dulac admitted he had done this on multiple occasions over the years. The evidence showed none of the supervisors at the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office were aware of his actions. During the course of the arbitration hearing, Deputy Dulac testified that two other deputies had pointed their weapons at Deputy Dulac many years before. The County immediately began an investigation into Deputy Dulac’s claims, and the arbitration hearing was put on hold. The subsequent investigation concluded that Deputy Dulac’s claims were unfounded. All eight deputies who were interviewed during the investigation indicated they never observed another deputy, except Deputy Dulac, point a weapon at a colleague.
While most workplaces may not have guns, there may be other dangerous horseplay happening at work. Arbitrators are not inclined to overlook dangerous working conditions.