AFUM defends its contract
AFUM, MEA’s faculty affiliate in the University of Maine System, defended a member and its contract by winning a grievance arbitration that removed a written warning from a member’s personnel file. "This case shows that administrators dealing with potential discipline must be careful not to be affected by irrelevant, unsubstantiated and detrimental information," says MEA UniServ Director Ross Ferrell, who handled the case.
"The AFUM contract prohibits anyone from placing unattributed and anonymous information in a faculty member’s personnel file," notes Ferrell, "and this decision confirms an important contractual protection affecting all members of the bargaining unit."
As AFUM saw it, the case arose out of a relatively minor incident involving a well-respected faculty member that was blown out of proportion and then subjected to a badly flawed administrative review.
In her decision dated August 5, 2011, Arbitrator Sarah Kerr Garraty agreed in large part, concluding that "the contractually prohibited inclusion of anonymous and unattributed statements in the letter" and prejudicial comments made at a general "gripe session" attended by University officials violated the contractual safeguards for a fair and unbiased investigation.
Because the University used unattributed material and never provided the grievant with an opportunity to respond to the information from a "complaint session riddled with unrelated and inflammatory accusations," Garraty concluded the investigation was prejudiced and fundamentally unfair.
Garraty upheld AFUM’s grievance and dismissed the University’s attempted reprimand as lacking in just cause. She ordered the offending letter removed from the personnel file.