Rethinking the Work-Family Conflict in the Labor Arbitration Context


M-, a Licensed Practical Nurse, was hired by Monroe County Hospital in October 1976. M- was a single parent and the sole supporter of five children. Over the next two years, she amassed what her employer considered an unsatisfactory number of absences, and received several warning notices. On September 21, 1978, M- called the nursing office and explained that because she was ill, she would be unable to report for her assigned shift. The following day, M- requested an unpaid leave of absence to attend to serious problems with her children. The request for leave was denied.

Two days before M- requested leave, her eldest daughter had been suspended from school because she exhibited threatening, possibly violent, behavior. School authorities had advised M- to take a leave of absence so that she could devote time and energy to her daughter’s therapy. Although her unpaid leave had been denied, M- did not report to work on September 23, 1978. Following a hearing at the Hospital, M- was fired.

T-, a Federal Aviation Administration Security Police Officer at Washington National Airport, was employed to patrol the boundaries of the airport. In addition to his duties as a Security Officer, T- was a part-time student at a nearby community college. The Veterans Administration paid his tuition and provided him with a monthly stipend. For nine years, T- worked the midnight shift. This shift enabled T to accommodate not only his work and school, but also the child-care responsibilities he shared with his wife and a baby-sitter.

Following allegations that on one occasion T- had fallen asleep during his shift, he was reassigned from the midnight shift to a daylight shift commencing at 7:30 a.m. The change in his work schedule made it difficult for him to schedule classes that satisfied his major. T-‘s V.A. benefits were contingent upon his continued enrollment in class. In addition to jeopardizing his V.A. benefits, the reassignment to the daylight shift prevented T- from meeting his share of the child-care responsibilities.

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