Teamsters 856 wins members’ jobs back after unjust terminations at the San Francisco Zoo

Local 856 members Jennifer Sloat and Ross Anthold fought back and won after being unfairly terminated from their jobs as zookeepers at the San Francisco Zoo.

Jennifer Sloat giving a hoof trim to a giraffe at Safari West.

Both Ross and Jennifer work in the zoo’s Hoofstock and Marsupials department — Ross works primarily with the Asian and African rhinoceros while Jennifer floats between the rhinoceros, giraffes, antelopes, koalas, and kangaroos.

Last May, during their break, Jennifer and Ross made a lighthearted Facebook video featuring the primate exhibit at the zoo. In the video, they joke that the zoo has an “exhibit of ladders” because there were so many ladders around the primate area due to ongoing maintenance.

The next day, Jennifer removed the video from her Facebook page.

One week later, Ross and Jennifer were each called to human resources and fired. They were both stunned to learn they were being terminated because of the video.

“I had never even been disciplined before,” said Ross. “In fact, I’ve received a commendation from the hoofstock curator for the work I was doing.”

Both members knew they had to fight their termination.

“This could have been cleared up with a one-on-one, so when it went straight to a firing I knew I wasn’t going to take it,” said Ross. “During my meeting with HR and told them I would be fighting it with my union.”

When Local 856 and the Zoo were unable to come to an agreement early in the grievance procedure, Local 856 took the grievance to arbitration.

“The zoo had to prove they had just cause to fire Jennifer and Ross and they weren’t able to prove that,” said Local 856 Representative Corey Hallman. “We pushed back and they weren’t able to produce credible evidence that what they did was so egregious it warranted termination.”

Ross Anthold with Waldie the white rhino at Safari West.

The independent arbitrator sided with Local 856, deciding that what was done was neither malicious nor deserving of termination. The zoo was ordered to reinstate both members with full seniority and backpay from July 2019 through their reinstatement.

“I’m glad Jenny and I stuck together and fought it,” said Ross. “We’ve talked about getting more involved in our union once we return to work.”

“The situation was emotionally draining and stressful, so I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when I found out we were getting our jobs back,” said Jennifer. “My union was able to help me say what happened was not okay and fight with me.”