Union Pacific sues to fire worker who defecated on railcar
Union Pacific is asking a federal judge to allow it to fire a worker who defecated on one of the train company’s railcars. But the labor union and are arbitrator are standing in its way.
The Omaha-based company filed a federal lawsuit Jan. 23 in Nebraska.
According to the lawsuit, employee Matthew Lebsack also made a vulgar hand gesture at the train’s security camera and threw feces-soiled tissue out the locomotive’s window during a stop Nov. 20, 2016, on a trip from Spokane, Washington. He later told his boss that he had left his co-workers “a present,” the lawsuit says.
Union Pacific fired Mr. Lebsack six days after the employee admitted his on-duty provocation in a January 2017 hearing that was held as part of the collective bargaining agreement with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. The company cited an employee conduct rule, calling his action “disgusting, poor and rude.”
But the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division appealed to arbitration on Mr. Lebsack’s behalf.
On Dec. 3, an arbitrator agreed with the labor union, calling Union Pacific’s penalty “excessive.”
Acknowledging Mr. Lebsack’s “bizarre” behavior, Cary Morgen of the Public Law Board in Chicago issued a final ruling calling for the reinstatement of the 18-year veteran of Union Pacific pending a psychological evaluation, given “that Claimant was a long-term employee with a known history of psychological issues.”
Courts documents show that Mr. Lebsack’s wife and daughter left him two days before he had left for work on the train. He also had mental illnesses documented back to 2007.
On Dec. 26, the train company told the union it would not reinstate Mr. Lebsack.
In the lawsuit, Union Pacific asks a federal judge to set aside the arbitration ruling, saying Mr. Morgen exceeded his jurisdictions.
“There is no rule requiring UP to send employees for psychological or medical evaluations prior to imposing discipline for violating Rule 1.6,” said the lawsuit.