The grievance arbitration used in this case study is between the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. The Complaint arises from an employee dismissal due to the discharge of work contents on a personal blog. The evidence presented constitute a total of 29 exhibits and several witnesses interviewed.
The two major issues addressed are procedural and challenge the manner in which the Grievor was fired and the way of conducting a punishment interview as per Article 28.02. The outcome and the reasons for the decision have been explained. After that, guidelines for the employers, employees, and the union have been discussed in line with the arbitration decision.
The Grievor worked for the Alberta Government in a capacity which allowed her to handle sensitive files which require great confidentiality. The Grievor, originally from Eastern Canada had been in this job position since 2002. She had started a blog in 2006 following the ill health and death of her father. During this period, she became emotionally unstable, and a therapist recommended her to write down the events in her everyday life to relieve stress. This became the reason for her blogging (Williams-Witt, Begg, Harris, & Filsinger, 2005).
The Grievors blog activities became a problem when she started posting about work. For instance, the blog titled Aliens around the Coffee Table had comments directed at her workmates. Another blog with the title SNAFU contained an email that gave administrative changes. On April 13th, she had also posted her opinions on a file she had reviewed. She posted for a while before the employer noticed and was able to take action.
The employer noticed the activities of the Grievor and interviewed her. The report indicated that the Grievor had been unapologetic about her postings. This led to the termination of work because her behavior had been contrary to the department's values of respect and cooperation. Her termination letter expressed that her actions contravened the Code of Conduct and Ethics of the Alberta Public Service (Williams-Witt, Begg, Harris, & Filsinger, 2005).
Was the termination of the Grievor done by the person mandated to do so?
Was a proper notice given to the Grievor before the termination interview as per the regulations in Article 28.02?
The grievance to have the job termination voided was rejected. The Board concluded that the employer was justified to take the action of firing the Grievor due to the evidence and her refusal to apologize and remove her blog posts.
Reasons for Decision
The board found no problem with the manner in which the Grievors termination was done. This is because as much as her boss was influenced by other parties to write the termination letter, her supervisor had agreed to the idea. The other employees who had blogs received mild punishments because they had apologized and decided to remove the postings. They also had not included confidential information as part of the posts (Williams-Witt, Begg, Harris, & Filsinger, 2005).
As for the adherence to Article 28.02, the board decided that the results were met because the notice was intended to ensure that there was a Union representative present during the interview. The employer had instead contacted a union representative who availed herself. The board cited the presence of a representative as a fulfillment of the requirements of Article 28.02, and thus, the employer was not found at fault.
Guidelines for Employers
To avoid any issues regarding misuse of the internet and email by employees, the employer should always make an effort to monitor the staff's online activities to make early discoveries before the crucial information is spelled out.
The employer should also ensure that any disciplinary measures taken are in line with provisions of the union regulations. For instance, this case could have been treated differently by the board if the allegations against the Grievor were minor.
The employers should always provide notice to the employee on the subject of the interview and the possible outcomes that may arise from it. This requirement is with an aim to allow the worker to get enough advice and to consult union representation (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 1995).
Guidelines for the Employees and Unions
Employees should note that they have freedom of speech and thus, there is no harm in having a blog. The workers are entitled to personal opinions, but problems arise when the beliefs are made public. The contents posted should therefore not be aimed at any workplace colleague or reveal any information that should be kept confidential (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 1995).
The Unions should take it upon themselves to advice the members on conduct and use of the internet. The rules and guidelines have to be stipulated. The union representative present at the Grievors hearing should have shown more effort in guiding her through the proceedings.
The arbitration hearing for the Grievor was based on procedural errors by the employer. The board, however, dismissed the issues based on the extent of damages on employer-employee relationship caused by the Grievors actions. The facts considered were that the Grievor had violated Code of Conduct and Ethics by divulging confidential information to the public. The evidence tabulated were conclusive in support of this claim.
The main reason as to why the termination could not be reversed is because of her unrepentant nature. From this case, it is evident that freedom of speech and opinion should be used but responsibly to avoid conflict.
Bennett-Alexander, D., & Hartman, L. P. (1995). Employment law for business. Chicago, IL: Irwin.
Williams-Witt, K., Begg, M., Harris, T., & Filsinger, K. (2005). Employment Law for Business and Human Resource Professionals (3rd ed.). Alberta & British Colombia: Elmond Publications.
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