"Quite possibly, I overreacted," said former Pepco meter reader Clarence Williams Jr. of the incident last March when he threw a flashlight into a customer's plate glass door.
But, after all, Williams contended in, a letter to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the customer, a woman, had cursed his mother and I just sort of went off . . . I don't talk about people's mothers and I don't want them to talk about mine . . ."
Then, there was the matter of the customer's growling dog, which Williams said the woman refused to restrain. He had reason to fear the animal, Williams argued, since during his career as a meter reader he had been severely bitten by a bulldog and a German shepherd.
Williams was discharged from Pepco for misconduct and asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to review a decision by the District Unemployment Compensation Board to withhold five weeks of benefits because of his behavior.
In an 11-page opinion, that recounted the travails of the meter reader, the appeals court Friday upheld the decision of the compensation board.
In his defense, Williams had claimed that his actions were provoked by the slur on his mother and his fear of the dog, but the appeals court did not agree.
"Verbal attacks cannot justify retaliatory action threatening physical injury," Judge John M. Ferren wrote in an opinion for the court.
Moreover, the court found, since the evidence showed the dog was behind the customer's door when Williams threw the flashlight, his actions were not justified.
The appeals court noted the compensation board had considered certain mitigating circumstances in its decision to minimize the penalty against Williams for his misconduct.
For one thing, there was Williams' claim that he had been twice bitten by dogs while reading meters. Further, just before the incident, Williams was on vacation in Alabama when his car broke down and he was unable to report back to work as scheduled. A supervisor at the meter-reading office told Williams that if he did not telephone the office each day until he returned, he would be considered "AWOL." Williams, the appeals court said, considered the expense of the long-distance calls unreasonable.