In a great victory for TCU/IAM Union members, TCU/IAM delivered a one-two punch and forced Koppers, Inc. to reinstate a wrongfully terminated member. First, TCU/IAM successfully appealed his dismissal and obtained an arbitration award reinstating him. Then, when Koppers refused to comply with the award and return the employee back to work, the Union took the NRLA Company to court.
On January 24, 2013, a TCU/IAM member, working as a laborer for Koppers, Inc. at its Galesburg, Illinois facility, collapsed on the job and was taken to the hospital. Having found nothing wrong with him, his doctors cleared him to return to work on February 6, 2013 and he performed his duties without incident through May 29, 2013. On that day, at the Company’s request, he released his medical records to management. The next day Koppers removed him from service and subsequently fired him on June 28, 2013, claiming that he falsified his medical history on his application. TCU/IAM immediately filed an appeal, which was progressed to arbitration by National Representative Kelly Gilbertson. On May 20, 2014, Arbitrator Patrick Halter issued a sustaining award, which ordered Koppers to return the employee to work and make him financially whole.
Incredibly, Koppers failed to honor the arbitration award, which according to law is final and binding on both parties. Although the award expressly stated that the employee was “medically cleared to resume his duties without restrictions,” Koppers demanded further medical evaluation. Then, even after the Company’s own doctor could find nothing medically wrong with the employee, Koppers insisted he could not return to work without a partner or colleague nearby, “just in case.” Since the employee’s laborer position did not provide for a co-worker, Koppers announced he could not return to work. This unfounded medical restriction was completely unsupported by the Arbitration Award. The Union made repeated demands that the employee be returned to work. However, the Company continued to engage in stall tactics and, although it eventually paid him a portion of his back wages, management refused to return the employee to work or issue his full back pay.
In response, TCU/IAM attorneys filed a civil action against Koppers to enforce the arbitration award. After numerous discussions, Koppers finally agreed to an unconditional reinstatement of the employee and to provide him with full back pay. This is great news for TCU/IAM as well as our Union Brother and his family, and could not have come about without the persistence and dedication of TCU/IAM’s local and national representatives and legal counsel.