(CN) – An Illinois highway worker who threw a sharpened trash-picking stick at a co-worker must be fired, the state appeals court ruled.
Bennie Williams Jr. began working for the Illinois Department of Transportation in 2002 and got into an altercation with storage room manager Anthony Holeyfield in 2008.
Williams had a long, sharpened stick called a paper pick, which he used to pick up trash along the highway. He testified that he was frustrated with Holeyfield for allegedly ignoring his request for an extension cord so he could plug in the grinder to sharpen his pick.
Williams admitted that he threw the paper pick at Holeyfield. Two co-workers said Williams was 30 feet away, and the pick landed 2 feet from Holeyfield. One of the colleagues said Williams threw the object like “a javelin.”
Williams was fired for violating a zero-tolerance policy against violence, and the Illinois Civil Service Commission upheld the decision to terminate Williams.
But a Cook County judge said Williams deserved less severe discipline, and the commission imposed a 90-day suspension instead.
Facing complaints from the transportation department, the Chicago-based first appellate district reversed.
“The commission’s original decision to discharge Williams was not arbitrary, unreasonable or unrelated to the requirements of service where Williams endangered Holeyfield by his actions,” Justice James Fitzgerald Smith wrote for a three-judge panel. “By failing to acknowledge the gravity of Williams’ misconduct, the circuit court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the commission when it ordered the commission to impose an appropriate discipline other than discharge.”