Water balloon - horseplay? We think not!

We recently terminated an employee for throwing a water balloon out the window of his company truck into the windshield of another company truck while driving on a public roadway. This 'horseplay' caused serious damage to the windshield. Some small shards of glass splattered onto the dashboard, but the windshield otherwise did not implode onto the passengers.

The employee says he did not think a water balloon would break a windshield. Admittedly a fluke, we feel this was a serious safety violation and willful misconduct. Our employees, as well as the general public, were at risk and the company was exposed to major liability. A Police report was filed. We did not think it necessary to have the ee arrested.

This employee is a member of a union and has an appeal hearing coming up. Of course the Union sees this as simple horseplay and feels our dismissal was 'too harsh'. This ee does not have any recent formal discipline in his file and even though he has a history for an anti-management attitude, we did not base our decision on anything but the facts of this incident. I would like to find some data to support our action. We do have our own general policies, but it would really help if I could find news articles or arbitration cases that point out the seriousness of the act and the liability involved - anything that will help support our decision.



  • 6 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • This may off the topic, but a similar thing happened in Milwaukee. During Brewer's baseball games there is a tradition of "sausage races". Young adults wear huge sausage costumes and race around the field. During this particular game a Pirate's player (in the spirit of horseplay) reached out from the dugout and struck one of the sausages in the head with a baseball bat. The poor sausage (who happened to a young lady) toppled to the ground, tripping another sausage who also fell.

    This received a huge amount of media attention. Perhaps you saw it on TV. It was senseless horseplay that damaged the player and the Pitts. Pirate's image.

  • Would the union feel the same way if it had been a non-union employee who dropped the water balloon on the union employee's windshield and glass shattered? I don't think so. If a non-union technician, supervisor or clerk had done it, the union would be screaming for a termination. Stick to your guns. This was a stupid and totally unnecessary act. There should be consequences for stupid behavior. Fight this one.
  • I would like to find some data to support
    >our action. We do have our own general policies, but it would really
    >help if I could find news articles or arbitration cases that point out
    >the seriousness of the act and the liability involved

    While I do not think you are going to find what you ask for, I can't imagine that you'll find anything other than support for the termination. What if the material used had been a small marble rather than a balloon? Or a rock dropped from on overhead bridge, which according to the media recently killed a woman when it went through a woman's windshield.

    Horseplay - Horsehockey! The union is way off base on this one and so would any arbitrator be who would turn this around. In hindsight, I might have asked the police to arrest and charge him, and am surprised they did not. This is a violation of law, not necessarily company policy. How'd he escape citation?

  • I agree the union is off base here -but - in my experience (in the midwest) y will lose this arbitration. IF, you ee had a past record of stupid pranks and horseplay, you might have a shot at it. But with nothing much of a history, I think most arbitrators will return him to work - perhaps w/o back pay, but neverthelesss, not enforce the 'capital punishment of the workplace'. If Don thnks this is a sure fire winner, then I think I'll come down there and arbitrate my cases - I'm damn tired of losing to these irresponsible jerk-***s!
  • Couple of thoughts............you discipline the action, not the outcome. Does not matter if the windshield broke. The act was so dangerous that it had the potential to cause a serious motor vehicle accident, and yes someone could have been killed. Push hard, stick to your guns, even if you lose and must take him back you will hopefully not get stuck with backpay.
    My $0.02 worth.
    DJ The Balloonman
  • Stick to your guns, this "horseplay" could have caused a major accident that could have brought serious injury or death to one of your on-the-job employees or even worse, another driver outside the company.

    Think about the legal aspects of laws: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
    Think about what happens if a person that picks up an "unloaded" gun, points it at another person, and jokingly, but deliberately pulls the trigger and kills or injures them...what do the courts say? "Oh, well, he really thought it was unloaded, it was just an accident". NO! They go to jail for either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

    The INTENT that he had with the water balloon is irrelevant; it's the fact that such a sudden foreign object in your field of vision can startle any driver.

    For what it's worth, my first year of college, I had a water balloon dropped on my head from the 3rd floor of a dorm. It knocked me unconscious.

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