When we fight, we win!

Long-term employee wins back pay in DOC arbitration win

Legal-Department.jpgIt happens faster than you think:  You come to work one day and realize you’ve got a target on your back.  Even good, long-term employees with stellar performance reviews aren't immune. 

Maybe you’ve got a new manager who wants to “shake things up” a bit, or your boss suddenly decides he wants to crack down on union supporters.  Or maybe you’re facing turbulence in your personal life – a major illness or divorce – that is making it difficult to concentrate on the job.  

Whatever the reason, when your employer comes after you, you need a strong union that will fight to protect your rights at work.

Teamsters 117 is that union.  Every year, the Local 117 Legal Department wins dozens of arbitration cases in defense of members whose rights have been violated on the job.

Recently, your Local Union won a full back pay arbitration award for a Department of Corrections employee, who was demoted without just cause.  The employee, Peggy Smet of the Airway Heights Corrections Center in Spokane, had worked for the DOC for over 19 years.   

Smet had consistently received positive performance reviews, yet despite her long tenure and strong evaluations, DOC eventually demoted her after the Department had understaffed her unit.  “We were overworked.  I was working a caseload and a half, and I was tired,” Smet said.  “They were seeing the results of not fully staffing the unit.”

After exhausting the grievance process, Teamsters 117’s General Counsel Spencer Thal took the case to arbitration.  A hearing was held on June 4, 5, and 11 in Spokane.

Thal argued that the employer had failed to follow progressive discipline and had violated the contract in demoting her.  The arbitrator agreed.  “The performance issues that the employer could properly consider are simply not enough to justify a permanent demotion,” wrote Arbitrator Katrina Boedecker, in her 24-page ruling.

Smet had worked for the DOC for 14 years in two different job classifications without discipline.  By the Department’s own admission, she had an above average record.  No doubt, she deserved better treatment from her employer.  And thanks to the good work of her union, she was reinstated to her previous position and made whole.

“I’m so relieved and excited to have won,” she said.  “I’m happy that the Teamsters were there and that they didn’t give up on me.”

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