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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service


DETROIT (CN) - A 29-year employee claims U.S. Steel fired him unfairly, and his union failed to defend him after he tried to provide "comic relief at the lunch hour" during a phone call to a company counselor. He says he did not know the counselor's voice mail was on when he made "disparaging remarks about the Union leadership, the employer, the counselor and African Americans."

The complaint states: "On March 13, 2008 plaintiff was in the lunch room of employer's plant in Ecorse, Michigan with a couple of his friends and coworkers.

"At that time and place, plaintiff was following company policy when he called a counselor representing the employer. He was allowed to call her by the employer.

"Said Counselor was not available as her voice mail came on. Plaintiff was under the mistaken belief that he had disconnected his telephone call to the counselor. He was unknown to him still connected to her voice mail.

"Thinking he had disconnected the call, plaintiff proceeded to make disparaging remarks about the Union leadership, the employer, the counselor and African Americans.

"These remarks were made only to a couple of his friends and represented plaintiff venting frustrations plaintiff was feeling. He was known to provide comic relief at the lunch hour.

"Plaintiff had been promised that anything he said to the counselor would be considered confidential.

"Plaintiff made those remarks to only a couple of his friends who laughed at outbursts.

"He did not threaten any person with his comments. He did not intend to start any confrontation. He did not endanger the safety of any employee.

"He did not sexually harass the counselor because he did not know that she would hear his remarks. To sexually harass someone you have to intend to make the remarks to the person. Plaintiff never intended for the counselor to hear his remarks.

"Plaintiff shortly before this incident had run for Union office on a team slate that

had a bitter decisive battle that they lost against the current Union president and his team.

"The Union including its president was hostile to plaintiff even before plaintiff disparaged the union in his comments that were recorded without his knowledge.

"Plaintiff's union was required to represent plaintiff fairly in the handling of his grievance against the employer.

"Because of the extreme hostility that existed between the union's leadership

and plaintiff from the bitter name calling and Union election that plaintiff participated in as a candidate and because of the disparaging remarks made by plaintiff on the recording, the union failed to properly represent plaintiff regarding his discharge from United States Steel Corporation ..."

Richard Robeson wants his job back, and damages. He alleges breach of contract and conspiracy. He is represented in Federal Court by Philip Hickey of New Boston, Mich.

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