I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Probationary Employee compared with a Regular, Full-Time Permanent Employee

What is a probationary employee?  That’s the question we’re being asked to vote upon this month via our requested approval of an MOU between the district and one certain employee.

As I understand the situation, this employee was terminated during the probationary portion of an initial appointment in a new support position within the district.  When the department supervisor asked to speak with this employee, union representation was requested by this individual.  The supervisor ended the meeting and agreed that the employee could bring someone from the union to the continuation of the meeting with the supervisor.   After a period of time elapsed, the supervisor attempted to re-engage  the discussion with the employee, yet the union rep had not been summoned or had not shown up.

Because the employee was on probationary status, because there appeared to be no real significant effort to bring a union rep to the resumed meeting in a reasonable period of time--- this employee was subsequently terminated by this supervisor.   This is allowed because a probationary employee can be terminated any time with or without cause.  This is a universally accepted, widely understood fact of known truth,  Period.

Three and a half weeks later, this same person was able to be hired in another department of the school district, and during this time this person filed a series of grievances over the action that led to her termination from the initial job.  At the first two levels of grievance meetings, the district’s position with respect to the termination was upheld.  

End of story, right?
No, not quite. 

For reasons I do not understand, our attorney “negotiated” a settlement with the union and their attorneys, after we had won two levels of grievance  hearings.   This settlement  includes a payment

 of back pay for this employee that now serves in a different district position, still in probationary status so far as I know.

Talk about gutsy! Wow!—still on probation in a new position, threatening grievances and or legal action from an earlier probationary appointment from which this person was removed.  Wow!
(Uncomfortably reminiscent of an employee that from PHS a number of years back that the Principal did not want to make permanent-----yet a snafu in the HR department led to this individual eventually, mistakenly becoming a permanent employee, and we have paid a price ever since....literally and figuratively)

So why would we ever settle with this person, this new employee?  Why would we offer back pay to a probationary employee that was terminated legitimately for not meeting expectations during the probationary portion of their employment term?

I’m told it was also because we got “better language” in return for making this deal.

I disagree.  The new language that everyone is so excited about opens a Pandora ’s Box of new issues and is actually worse than the previous language, providing probationary employees expanded rights under the CBA, to include progressive discipline rights.

Why can’t we simply follow the letter of the rules in 60L-33.003(2)(d), F.A.C—that speak precisely to what a probationary employee is?

If we’re going after language, why not go for strong language like what is found in the employee handbook for the Florida Departmentof Environmental Protection on page 17?  It is clear, unambiguous, and speaks precisely to what a probationary employee is and isn’t. 

Our new language is a wreck, apparently affording probationary employees with rights to progressive discipline and every other protection codified in the collective bargaining agreement, with the exception being they can be terminated with or without cause, and this cannot be grieved.   But what about every other provision under the CBA--can all of this be grieved by probationary employees now?!?.  

Why would we ever hamstring ourselves and agree to offer progressive discipline protocols for probationary employees?  Who would ever do this?

Bottom line, this is a bad deal.  I will not ever support this capitulation, giving back-pay to a probationary employee that was cut loose for not meeting expectations.  That is why we have probation periods---so managers can carefully evaluate employees so the ones that do not meet expectations can be cut loose before such employees reach regular status and attain all of the associated notice and grievance rights provisions a permanent, regular employee enjoys.  It’s nuts.

I discussed my reasoning for this here. 

And the Hail Mary pass argument (s) that we “violated this employee’s civil rights” and/or “discriminated against this employee” I do not buy these.  

I’m not going to vote to support the payment of taxpayer dollars to this employee.  Even if it is an amount that some feel is a “minimal” amount. 

This settlement and the whole issues smells,-- it is sloppy and sketchy.  It actually sets the district up for more problems, and more expenses, down the road.   

It is akin, in my opinion, to taking a short-term approach to a complex long-term problem, jumping over a $5.00 bill today to save a Nickel down the road.  It is a short-sighted  lazy demonstration of playing fast and loose with taxpayer money.

I won’t support it.

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