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Scott v. Riley Co.

*fn*: January 27, 1981.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 78 C 0857 -- Marvin E. Aspen, Judge .

Before Swygert, Cummings and Wood, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cummings

Plaintiff-appellant, Charles Scott, filed an action in the district court pursuant to ยง 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act alleging that his employer, The Riley Company (Riley), breached the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Scott alleged that the discharge was without just cause. The district court, sitting as trier of fact, concluded that the discharge was proper.


Scott was employed at The Riley Company from June 26, 1959, until April 24, 1977, the date of his discharge. Riley informed Scott of his discharge by telegram. At trial Riley defended the discharge on the basis that an accumulation of incidents indicated a deterioration in Scott's job performance. The incidents are recounted below in detail because it is the accumulation of these incidents which led to Scott's discharge.

The district court, in finding for Riley, noted that "(m)any incidents were testified to." In his findings the district judge noted two of the incidents, but relied on the other incidents in concluding that "their totality resulted in the poor performance which eventually caused the Plaintiff's discharge." Tr. at 203.

Some of the testimony describing these incidents is in conflict. Of course, it was up to the district court, as trier of fact, to resolve these conflicts. Bearing this in mind, the evidence revealed the following incidents:

1) Riley had a rule against taking food out of the cafeteria. Scott's supervisor, Leroy Swisher, saw Scott drinking coffee in the boiler room and warned him that it was in violation of a company rule.

2) Scott was ordered to move filing cabinets and refused on the basis that it involved the moving of files, which was clerical work and not within his job classification. Swisher testified that the process was to empty the file drawers and move the cabinets and then reassemble the cabinets and files at the new location. Swisher also testified that Scott had performed this task before. Scott eventually performed the task and filed a grievance over the matter.

3) Riley ordered Scott to perform tasks at a different company location in Schiller Park. At first, Scott objected to working in a different location. Also, Scott informed Joe Gump, the company manager, that his car was not functioning and thus he could not drive to Schiller Park. Eventually transportation for Scott was provided and he went to the Schiller Park building. Upon his arrival Scott discovered he had forgotten the keys to the building. This cost several hours in work time. Scott received a written warning about this incident. Also, Scott filed a grievance protesting his temporary transfer to Schiller Park.

4) On August 31, 1975, Scott's formal job description included lawn care and cleaning of areas outside the building. Previous to this formal change Scott testified that he had an agreement with the company to mow the lawn on the weekends. At one point in 1976 Swisher asked Scott to mow the lawn and Scott refused. Scott went to his union steward and thereafter performed the job.

Swisher testified that he asked Scott to clean up a pad outside the building. According to Swisher, Scott had performed the task before but this time Scott claimed that it was not within his job classification. Another person performed the task and thereafter Scott filed a grievance.*fn1

5) Riley employees changed insurance coverage from Traveler's insurance to Banker's Life. Scott, apparently in contravention of the insurance agreement, contacted Banker's Life directly on a claim. Scott received a written warning for this incident stating that such contact was prohibited and could be grounds for dismissal. Scott testified that he contacted Banker's Life because this had been the former practice with Traveler's and he was under the impression that this had not changed.

6) After a day of absence from work Scott was presented with an excused absence form to fill out. The form was presented six days after the absence. Scott refused to fill out the form. Swisher testified that it was company policy to fill out the form and that ...

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