Mission Hill employee fails to get job back after spilling 5,680 litres of Sauvignon blanc | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mission Hill employee fails to get job back after spilling 5,680 litres of Sauvignon blanc

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Wikimedia Commons
January 21, 2020 - 12:08 PM

A former Mission Hill worker who accidentally flushed 5,680 litres of Sauvignon blanc down the drain, failed to convince an arbitrator that being fired was too severe a response to his mistake.

That's a $162,464.40 mistake. 

The union grieved Brent Crozier's December 2018 dismissal from Mission Hill and Nicholas Glass, the arbitrator in the case pointed out in a Dec. 30, 2019 decision that, among other things, mistakes Crozier made were excessive and deserving of dismissal.

Crozier had worked at the winery for 10.5 years and in 2014 took on the role of cellar man. His main duties in that role included transferring and blending wine as per the directions in a work order.

According to the decision, the physical transfer happens through using stainless-steel piping from the tanks to a junction; flexible hoses would be used to take the product from the panel to the receiving tank.

On Nov. 19, 2018, according to testimony, Crozier was provided with a work order involving the movement of wines from more than one tank to several receiving tanks.

The volume to be moved was 5,945 litres and the estimated flow time for this transfer was to take 30 minutes. This flow time would indicate a minimum of one line–check after 15 minutes and possibly a second one after 30 minutes.

"This line-check involved walking the lines, as stated, to confirm that there was no leaking, no valve misplacement and that the door to the tank was not leaking," reads the decision.

Crozier, once the lines were set, started the process.

Somewhere along the way there was a mistake. The valve on the diversion at one tank that Crozier had put in place had not been closed and was left open.

When the product was sent there "it went to the diverter and out to the floor down the drain," reads the decision.

"Total loss was 5,680 litres of Mission Hill Estate Sauvignon blanc."

The value of the loss was calculated through cases — 630 cases at $257.88 per case equals $162,464.40 retail value.

Crozier told his bosses that the workload and pressures were pretty big during what's called 'crush'. 

"He worked weekends and through the week," reads the decision. "His total overtime during that period was 257 hours. He stated that during this period there were more opportunities for errors."

On that day, in particular, he stated that he was feeling tired when he got to work and his first task of the day was to set up the job he was given and he basically forgot certain steps.

He admitted he screwed up and was remorseful.

While the union tried to argue for a lesser result than dismissal, Glass pointed out that Crozier was negligent that day.

Worse yet, it wasn't his first issue.

That a total loss of wine down the drain has happened only twice in the history of  Mission Hill Estate's cellar operations.

"...On that other occasion in 2017, it was (Crozier) who was the culprit," Glass wrote.

"He made the same mistake and flushed 11,000 litres of wine down the drain. This fact was common ground among witnesses who addressed the subject and, subject only to arguments about admissibility, was not disputed."

That time around he also apologized profusely to management and promised to be more careful in the future.

"He agreed he had failed to live up to expectations in that regard," reads the decision.

"It is apparent from this history that earlier efforts by the employer to impress upon the grievor the seriousness of an error of this magnitude failed to achieve the desired result and, in spite of them, he committed the same disastrous error in 2018."

Glass said it provides him with a sense of who Crozier is as an employee and what kind of employment relationship the employer has had to deal with.

"I am accordingly satisfied that the employer did not single out the grievor for harsh treatment contrary to any usual level of disciplinary response," he wrote.

"The nature and magnitude of grievor’s repeated negligence justified a different response."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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