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Belardinelli v. Werner Continental Inc.

Decided: April 4, 1974.

ALBERT BELARDINELLI, INDIVIDUALLY AND LOCAL 560, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
WERNER CONTINENTAL, INC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Collester, Lynch and Michels. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, J.s.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Michels

This is an appeal by plaintiffs Albert Belardinelli and Local 560, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (union) from a judgment of the Chancery Division upholding an arbitrator's award which found that there was just cause for the discharge of Belardinelli from his employment with defendant Werner Continental, Inc. (Werner). The action arises under section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. ยง 185, by virtue of which this court has concurrent jurisdiction with the federal courts. The substantive law to be applied under this act is federal law which the courts must fashion from the policy of our national labor laws. See Standard Motor Freight, Inc. v. Local Union No. 560, 49 N.J. 83, 86 (1967); Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 456, 77 S. Ct. 912, 1 L. Ed. 2d 972 (1957); Newark Wire Cloth Co. v. United Steelworkers of Amer., 339 F. Supp. 1207, 1209 (D.N.J. 1972).

Plaintiff was employed as a driver with Werner, an interstate motor carrier, for approximately 17 1/2 years and was a member of Union Local 560. Plaintiff was dispatched by Werner to Food Fair to pick up a load of cartons. When he arrived at the shipping dock he refused to load the cartons onto his truck by means of an electric jack as requested by the shipper because he never loaded cargo with an electric jack and apparently was concerned with his safety. He immediately called an official of the union, during which time he tied up the shipping dock. Food Fair, angered by the delay, denied him the load, and he returned to Werner's

terminal with an empty truck. As a result of this incident plaintiff was discharged by Werner the next day. Following his discharge the union lodged a grievance with Werner and being unable to settle the dispute at the grievance level, the union and Werner submitted the matter to final and binding arbitration in accordance with their bargaining agreement. The submission presented to the arbitrator by the union and Werner stated as follows:

Did Mr. Belardinelli quit his job? If not, was he discharged for just cause? If neither, what shall the remedy be?

The arbitrator held that since there were no previous timely warnings given to plaintiff by Werner as required by the bargaining agreement, plaintiff should have been continued in service until the matter was heard at arbitration. The arbitrator further held that even though the bargaining agreement did not permit immediate discharge for the offense here involved, just cause existed for the discharge of plaintiff. The arbitrator upheld the discharge of plaintiff and awarded him back pay from the date of his discharge to the date of the arbitration award. The Chancery Division confirmed the award, from which judgment this appeal was taken.

Plaintiffs contend that the arbitrator's award was beyond the authority expressly conferred upon him by the bargaining agreement and that the award, therefore, should be set aside.

The bargaining agreement involved is the National Master Freight Agreement and New Jersey-New York Area General Trucking Supplemental Agreement (agreement). Article 47 of the agreement sets forth the basis upon which an employee may be discharged or suspended. Section 1, in pertinent part, provides:

The Employer shall not discharge nor suspend any employee without just cause and the written notice of discharge or suspension must set forth the specific reason(s) for such action. In respect to discharge

or suspension, the Employer shall give at least one warning notice of the specific complaint against such employee, in writing, and a copy of the same to the Union and the shop steward, except that no warning notice need be given to any employee before he is discharged or suspended if he is discharged or suspended for any of the causes listed in Section 2 below or suspended for theft of time. The Employer shall not discipline any employee without just cause based upon valid written warning notices sent within the applicable time periods set forth hereinafter. No disciplinary notice shall be considered valid unless it is in writing, has been delivered to the employee, personally or by certified mail to the address given to the Employer by the employee or his job steward and sent certified mail to the Union, and sets forth therein in full the specific grounds and circumstances upon which it is based. No warning letter or letter of suspension shall be considered valid unless issued by the Employer within seven (7) days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, from the date the Employer knew of or reasonably should have become aware of the specific grounds and circumstances upon which it is based.

Section 2 referred to above enumerates the only causes for immediate discharge of an employee, none ...


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