The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER
Aero Services operates an airline service facility at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. Its customers are the owners and pilots of private aircraft. Defendant Aero was later acquired by CSX Beckett Aviation and plaintiffs have sued both corporations. We will refer to the defendants collectively as the Company.
Plaintiff Grandstaff began work with the Company on June 1, 1984 as a line service technician servicing and refueling aircraft. At all times relevant here, Grandstaff was covered by a collective bargaining agreement between the Teamsters and the Company. That agreement provides at Article XVII Section 1 that an employee may only be discharged for "just cause".
Grandstaff's personnel record reveals a number of disciplinary reports and warnings from supervisors. On November 21/22, 1985, Grandstaff reported to work without his uniform and was advised of company policy requiring employees to wear uniforms on the job at all times. Despite this admonition, Grandstaff came to work 3 days later again out of uniform.
On December 27, 1985, Grandstaff received a warning from his supervisor concerning his excessive absenteeism, his practice of leaving before the end of his shift, and his disregard for his job performance. The supervisor's report indicates that Grandstaff responded to the supervisor with an obscenity and then walked out. Grandstaff had received similar warnings in the past.
On January 13, 1986, Grandstaff was refueling an aircraft when he got into a heated discussion with the customer, the aircraft's pilot. Grandstaff concluded the discussion by turning away and calling the pilot a "jag-off", a common Pittsburgh epithet with an obscene origin. The pilot filed a complaint with the Company and Grandstaff was then discharged.
Grandstaff does not deny any of the incidents described above and no evidentiary material contesting them has been submitted.
In accord with the collective bargaining agreement the parties pursued the matter through the grievance process without resolving the dispute. The Union then demanded arbitration but the Company, exercising its right under the contract, refused to submit to arbitration. This suit followed.
The issue, simply put, is whether the Company had just cause to dismiss Grandstaff. Grandstaff does not deny the events described above including the series of infractions he committed in the 2 months prior to discharge. The only question is whether these events satisfy the standard of just cause.
We focus first on the precipitating events of January 13, 1986. There is no question that the use of abusive or obscene language directed toward a customer is a serious matter. Several arbitrators have considered similar conduct and have held it to be grounds for dismissal. See, H. E. Miller Oldsmobile and Machinists Local 778, 81 LA 1112 (Westbrook 1983) (mechanic told customer "I don't give a f where you take your car for service"); Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Pittsburgh Division and Food Employees Local 590, 71 LA 805 (Nernberg 1978) (checkout clerk called a customer's children "brats" and told another customer not to come back); Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Co. and Communication Workers, 75 LA 409 (Seibel 1980) (telephone repairman made harassing and obscene telephone calls to a customer); Alumax Extrusions, Inc. and Steelworkers Local 8775, 81 LA 722 (Miller 1983) (employee made obscene drawings on a door visible to customers and other employees).