Jury orders union to pay fired Westport highway worker $350,000

A former Westport Highway Department worker has won $350,000 in a civil lawsuit in which he claimed that his union did not stand by him adequately when he was fired in March of 2007.

A New Bedford Superior Court jury agreed Friday that the Labor Advantage for Workers Union Local 254 must pay the money plus interest to David Garant, now 44.

Mr. Garant, and his attorney, Brian R. Cunha, argued that the union should have filed a grievance when Mr. Garant was fired from his job as a town truck driver.

Town Highway Surveyor Jack Sisson fired Mr. Garant in March of that year after he said he found out that Mr. Garant’s driver’s license had been suspended because he had failed to pay a $35 fine for a seatbelt violation ticket he had received in Connecticut. Mr. Garant did not report that license suspension to his supervisor.

After Mr. Garant appealed his firing to the town, Westport reached agreement in 2009 to pay him $50,000 on the understanding that he resign and make no further claims against the town.

During the two-day jury trial before judge Thomas McGuire Jr., Mr. Cunha argued that the union failed to represent him adequately as a member, inaction that cost him his job, benefits and pension.

He also argued that the firing was more about a personality clash and that Mr. Sisson had not taken similar action against other Highway Department employees who he knew had also worked without licenses.

There has been no announcement yet on whether the union will appeal the decision.

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