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UAB Grievance

UAB Grievance

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Published by Roger Shuler
Written statement to a UAB grievance committee regarding unlawful termination of an employee.
Written statement to a UAB grievance committee regarding unlawful termination of an employee.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Roger Shuler on Aug 21, 2012
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08/21/2012

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To: UAB Grievance Committee From: Roger Shuler  Re: Termination of Employment On May 19, 2008, I was terminated from my position as editor at UAB after 19 years of employment. This action evidently was taken because I write a blog on my personal time andequipment, and the blog deals with justice-related issues, something that must have upset someonein the university hierarchy. In fact, I have strong evidence that someone external to the university was intentionally trying tocost me my job and intended to make false allegations against me. It appears that someone at UABwas willing to believe most anything that was said about me. In short, I was fired for political reasons having nothing to do with job performance or alleged policyviolations. I've been falsely accused of using UAB resources to write my blog, and that seems to be thedriving force behind my termination. This action is unjust, unmerited, unlawful, and contrary to UABpolicy. Just a word on the subject of credibility. Dale Turnbough's memo informing me of my termination isalmost entirely hearsay, focusing on events of which she has no firsthand knowledge. For example,Ms. Turnbough says that in a staff meeting I was told something regarding use of our departmentalprinter. I don't recall ever seeing Ms. Turnbough in one of our staff meetings, certainly not in onewhere the subject of the printer was raised. My main accuser seems to be my supervisor, Pam Powell. But what about her credibility? I'veknown Pam almost the entire 19 years I've been at UAB, and I've enjoyed our relationship most of that time. But over the past five months or so, her behavior toward me has deteriorated into abizarre series of false statements that I can only call a harassment campaign. At this point, she hasno credibility left when it comes to statements about my job performance or behavior. Want proof?Just see Exhibit A, which is attached.I Management's Violations of UAB Policy 
A. Administrative Leave
 Administrative leave was improperly used in this case. A provision for administrative leave withoutpay does exist, and is to be used in cases where normal unit operations or safety would be affectedor the university needs more time to gather information for determining disciplinary action. Nostatements have been made to me indicating that I had caused, or would cause, a disruption of unitoperations or would pose a safety risk in the workplace. And the "investigative" materials I wasshown were dated from Feb. 22 to March 27, 2008. UAB had more than a month to analyze thisdata, so there is no indication that more time was needed. The allegations against me came from my supervisor, Pam Powell. The You and UAB Handbook
 
indicates that such cases should be handled by the university's progressive discipline procedure. Asstated on page 57, "UAB will work with an employee through a 'progressive disciplinary' process,which means that the least severe level of discipline applicable to the situation will be exploredbefore invoking more harsh levels of discipline."UAB policy further states: "The first step in most disciplinary actions is oral warning." Nothing thatwas said in the May 7 meeting, or given to me in writing, indicates that I was ever given an oralwarning regarding the three allegations made against me. The facts as I present them here will show that no discipline of any kind was merited in this case.Imposition of administrative leave and then immediate termination is clearly contrary to UAB policy. 
B. Immediate Termination
Under UAB policy, an employee is to face immediate termination only under specific circumstances.The university handbook lists such offenses as stealing, fighting, drunkenness etc. The allegations in this case, even if they were true and represented violations of university policy,would not merit immediate termination. Given that these allegations are not true and do notrepresent policy violations, immediate termination of a 19-year employee is beyond comprehension. 
C. The Grievance Process
I filed a complaint against my supervisor, Pam Powell, on April 23 or 24, 2008. On that same date, Imet with Associate Vice President Dale Turnbough to discuss my concerns regarding Pam'ssupervision. This came after about a five-month period where Pam had consistently harassed meand made numerous false statements, both verbally and in writing, regarding my work performanceand behavior. Ms. Turnbough seemed to take my concerns seriously and indicated she would talk with Pam aboutthem. Ms. Turnbough gave no indication that she had any problems with my work performance or behavior. In fact, when I brought up my blog, she assured me that was not a concern. What happened as a result of my meeting with Dale Turnbough and the grievance I filed with PamPowell? In roughly three weeks time, I was terminated. My grievance against Pam Powell still hasnot been heard. UAB policy states that an employee can resort to the process without fear of penalty. In my case, Iwas terminated in clear retaliation for filing a grievance. II Allegations Against Me Prior to my termination, I was never given a written explanation of the allegations against me. Evenin Dale Turnbough's letter informing me of my termination, she does not cite a single university or departmental policy that I allegedly violated. Here is my best guess as to the charges against me: 
A. Neglect of Duty
 All of my projects over the past several months are being handled in a timely and professionalmanner, so this claim makes no sense. My performance appraisals from my supervisor, Pam Powell, have always been positive. The mostrecent one came, I believe, in November 2007. That causes this claim to make even less sense. Pam Powell evidently has created a criterion called "non work related (NWR) time" and used this to
 
initiate an investigation of my computer usage. Before being placed on administrative leave, I hadnever heard the term NWR and have seen no definition of it in any UAB or departmental policy.Evidently it can mean whatever Pam wants it to mean. This charge becomes even more nonsensical when you consider the nature of my work. I spendmost of every work day writing my own stories, conducting research for my stories or publications,copyediting my colleagues' stories, proofreading projects that are either my own or my colleagues'. Iconstantly use the Web to check or verify information. It's a critical aspect of my job--and of mycoworkers' jobs. Not only is this activity work related, it is required of my job. My coworkers and I are in the business of using words. That is fundamental to what we do. And youcannot be an effective writer or editor if you do not read. Many times a day, I might get stuck whilewriting or editing a story. I've found that a good way to get unstuck is to pause for a moment andread something that someone else has written or edited. And the Web is full of such material. Itmight be something serious, something funny, something similar to what you are working on, or something totally different. But this process invariably helps me get over bumps that come up in anyword-related activity. I know many other editors and writers who use similar techniques. Again, thisis not NWR activity. The whole point of having Web access, I thought, is to help us do our job, andthat's exactly what I've done. Now I've been fired because of it. Need more evidence of how nutty this charge is? A primary area of growth in our office is in "newmedia"--blogs, Web sites, social-networking sites, sites featuring audio and video files. We havespecifically been told to learn about this emerging area of publications work. More and more, our work involves new technology, not paper and ink. We have been encouraged numerous times todevelop ideas for using new technology that can assist our clients. In one case, I saw from checkinga newspaper Web site that the paper was making effective use of an "audio slideshow." I forwardedthis information to Pam, and it has become one of our popular "new technology" offerings. To myknowledge, no one on our staff was familiar with audio slideshows until I brought it to Pam'sattention. It has gone on to become a source of new revenue for our group. What's my reward for this kind of progressive thinking, the kind of thinking my boss has encouraged me to do? I've beenfired. Finally, I've been told that this issue of NWR was based on Pam's own observations. I'm not surehow accurate those observations could be. Pam generally does not come into the office until 11a.m., at the earliest. It's not unusual for me to go to lunch around 11:30, return at 12:30, and she stillhas not come into the office. I've worked late numerous times, until 5:30 or 6, and she usuallyleaves before I do on those occasions. My impression is that she is rarely in the office for 6 hours or more a day. And since I tend to come in pretty early, she and I might not be in the office together more than 3-4 hours a day. Given that she manages a staff of 10-12, hard to see how her impressions of my work activities could be very accurate.
B. Insubordination
This charge also is not based in fact. The definition of insubordination is the refusal or deliberatefailure to carry out an assignment, usually in a disrespectful way. I've done nothing of the sort, andno one has even accused me of such behavior in any written document. I can only assume that this charged is based on the accusation that I have worked on my blog usingUAB resources. A simple check of UAB IT records would show the facts: I've never touched the firstkeystroke on my blog using UAB resources. How do I know? I cannot access my blog without getting into a certain password-protected e-mailaccount. Without getting into that account, neither I nor anyone else can do a thing to my blog. AndI have never opened that e-mail account at work. Dale Turnbough's letter of termination doesn'teven allege that I've blogged at work.

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