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Arbitrator Reinstates Chrysler Workers Fired for Drinking During Breaks

The workers were fired in September 2010 after a Fox network station in Detroit filmed them during breaks drinking alcohol and smoking in a nearby parking lot over several days.

December 10, 2012

More than a dozen Chrysler Group assembly-plant workers who were fired in 2010 after being filmed by a Detroit television station drinking alcohol and smoking during their breaks have been reinstated in their jobs by an arbitrator.

The workers were fired in September 2010 after WJBK, a Fox network station in Detroit, filmed them during breaks from Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly plant drinking alcohol and smoking in a nearby parking lot over several days.

The 2010 news video showed the men then returning to work. Chrysler suspended two of the workers in the video for a month without pay and fired 13 others. The station aired its latest story the evening of Dec. 7.

At the time, Chrysler said it "will not tolerate such behavior and will continue to evaluate its protocols to ensure that something like this does not happen again."

The United Auto Workers union filed grievances on behalf of the fired workers, and a third-party arbitrator agreed with the union that Chrysler had improperly terminated the employees.

"After more than two years, an arbitrator decided in the workers' favor, citing insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold the dismissals. This was a decision that Chrysler Group does not agree with," Scott Garberding, Chrysler's head of manufacturing, wrote in a blog post today.

"I want you to know that Chrysler Group does not condone, in any way, this type of misconduct, but we're in the tough spot of having to accept the arbitrator's decision, just as the (UAW) must when the ruling is in the favor of the company."

A Chrysler spokeswoman confirmed that all of the fired employees have been reinstated. It was not clear if they collected back pay.

"Chrysler Group acknowledges the reinstatement of a number of employees from the Jefferson North assembly plant who were discharged from the company in September 2010 after appearing in a local TV station's story about their off-duty conduct," the company's statement said in part.

It continued: "While the company does not agree with the ultimate decision of the arbitrator, we respect the grievance procedure process as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement and our relationship with the UAW.

"Unfortunately, the company was put in a very difficult position because of the way the story was investigated and ultimately revealed to the public. These employees from Jefferson North have been off work for more than two years. The time has come to put this situation behind us and resume our focus on building quality products that will firmly establish Chrysler Group's position in the marketplace."

Larry P. Vellequette writes for Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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