New Bedford Housing Authority Sues Union Over Fired Employee
NEW BEDFORD — A Bristol County court may soon be deciding the fate of a former New Bedford Housing Authority employee who was fired after police had to be called to the office to remove him during an altercation in 2021.
Brian Andrade later submitted a union grievance over his termination that was heard by an arbitrator, according to court documents filed in the October 2022 lawsuit.
Arbitrator Mark Grossman ultimately mandated Andrade's reinstatement at the city housing authority despite finding "very serious misconduct," the NBHA's complaint states.
The housing authority is suing the union to try to get the court to overturn the arbitrator's decision, with the results of a Jan. 31 hearing still pending.
Andrade's misconduct includes allegedly making violent threats against other staffers on at least two occasions, the NBHA notes in the lawsuit.
Hiring and first incident
Andrade was hired by the NBHA in 2018 — and the lawsuit states that his supervisor "immediately" noticed issues, with other maintenance staffers allegedly reporting he was "difficult to work with."
On Nov. 16, 2021, another employee asked to borrow an NBHA pickup truck that was being used by Andrade and his work partner.
When they returned with the truck and encountered the other staffer, Andrade started a loud verbal altercation, trading insults with the other man.
The incident did not become physical, according to the complaint, but the other staffer repeatedly asked department members to "keep him away from me," referring to Andrade.
Afterwards Andrade ranted about the man to his work partner, allegedly saying "I fight dirty" and "I'll stab him in the throat, and he'll never talk again."
Second incident in December 2021
While the housing authority was investigating the first altercation, on Dec. 14, 2021, Andrade was reprimanded by his supervisor for blocking the exit to the office parking lot with his vehicle twice in two days.
According to the complaint, while arguing with his supervisor about the issue, he allegedly threatened another employee who intervened, telling him "I'd love to put hands on you."
Housing Authority Director Steven Beauregard was called in and told Andrade to go home — but when he refused to comply, police were called.
Andrade did not leave the premises until officers told him that if he didn't leave, he would be charged with trespassing, the complaint states.
New Bedford police report
A police report on the second incident states that Officer Jonathan Plourde responded to a reported disturbance involving an employee refusing to leave the NBHA maintenance office on Dec. 14, 2021.
Andrade told the officer that they were "out to get him," according to the report.
After telling Andrade he could be charged with trespassing if he refused to leave, Plourde escorted Andrade back inside to gather his belongings, and he left the property.
Beauregard and another employee then told the officer that "this was not an isolated incident" and that Andrade was "constantly instigating" issues in the workplace.
The police report was filed at their request.
Termination and arbitration
Andrade was fired in January 2022, but appealed the termination through the Massachusetts Public Employee Council Local Union 367.
Despite finding Andrade's comments "startling" and his misconduct "very serious," according to the lawsuit, the arbitrator found that he had not made direct threats, and mandated his reinstatement.
As union attorney James Shaw notes in one document, "contrary to the allegations in the complaint, the arbitrator expressly found that Mr. Andrade did not make a threat" because his comments were made after the fact to a different staffer.
The NBHA was ordered to reinstate Andrade without back pay — essentially a 10-month unpaid suspension.
But the housing authority argued that Andrade showed "an egregious pattern of misconduct, including multiple detailed threats of violence and violent behavior to such an extent that police were required to escort Andrade away from the Maintenance Office."
To require the authority to bring him back could endanger their other employees and "would create a hostile work environment in violation of public policy," the NBHA stated.
A Bristol County Superior Court judge is set to decide if the matter will proceed after a judgment hearing took place on Jan. 31.