Disagreements between supervisors and those that they supervise are a regular feature of the workplace. For example, it is not uncommon for employees to refuse to follow the directives of supervisors. Recently the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration (SBMA) upheld the right of employers to discipline employees who refuse to follow appropriate directives.

In the City of Stamford v. AFSCME, Council 4, the SBMA dealt with the issue of insubordination and employee discipline. The manager of the city-operated ice rink had denied a request for a refund of fees to the mother of a 3-year old child. Following his denial, the mother complained repeatedly to the superintendent of recreation services. The manager was then asked to meet with both the superintendent and the parks and recreation director. The manager refused to meet with the superintendent and the director, stating that the matter was “trivial,” that he was extremely busy, and that he did not trust the director.

In response to his refusal to meet, the manager was suspended without pay for two weeks for insubordination. The Union filed a grievance, but the SBMA upheld the suspension and denied the grievance, noting that the manager was “grossly insubordinate” and “disrespectful.” This decision reaffirms the principle that, regardless of the nature of the underlying issue or disagreement, employees are not entitled to simply refuse to comply with reasonable directives.