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Anti-Nepotism Policy

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1. Describe the issues in the case
On November 2, 2006 Journeyman Mechanic Keith Walton was discharged for violating the anti-nepotism policy of the Company. Mr. Walton had been employed by the Company since April 30, 1999. The Company has a strict standing no-relative rule to prevent nepotism in the work place that predates World War II but wasn’t officially published in the employee handbook until 1998. It states that employees may be discharged for violation of the anti-nepotism policy (Sloane & Witney, 2011). On January 5, 1999 Mr. Walton applied for employment with the Company and in it he states that no relatives of his are employed by the Company. He was unaware of his uncle being employed with the Company during the application process and found out some time later.

In light of this the Company has made it clear that he was not discharged for falsification of the employment application (Sloane & Witney, 2011). The issue didn’t arise until October 2006, after 7 ½ years of employment with the Company in which time he worked his way up to his current title. On October 30, 2006 he was confronted by Assistant Maintenance Superintendent Frank Hayes in which he wanted to find out whether the accusations had validity behind them or not. During such conversation Hayes reassures Mr. Walton by saying “no matter what happened, don’t worry” (Sloane & Witney, 2011). 2. Provide a clear explanation of the union’s position

Although the Union can establish policy on hiring of relatives and anti-nepotism, it does not have the right to apply policies in bargaining (Sloane & Witney, 2011). In retrospect of this case Union witnesses testified that there was little knowledge of the Company’s “anti-nepotism” policy. The Company might claim that this is policy but when witnesses don’t even know the word and have to refer to a dictionary how can it be supported. There was also limited access to the General Operations Manuals where said policy is stated. This is another reason why this said policy can’t be supported when not all employees knew about it. It wasn’t until 2003 when the Company published “Your Career…Your Company,” and the “Employment of Relatives” when such said policy was known. The Union stands that employees did not know of or understand that this was policy. The Company also displays confusion on the employment of relative’s policy contained in the General Operations Manuals.

This is known by the need of conferences among managers in order to find out how such policy should be applied in situations. A prime example of such confusion is displayed in the Geisbecker-Crawford case. In this case management was not sure what the policy was, and where an employee was first assured that he did not violate the policy, then told that he did, and then retained in employment because the original interpretation of the Company was deemed to be correct (Sloane & Witney, 2011). A similar instance occurred in the current situation where Hayes reassured the grievant that “no matter what happened, don’t worry” (Sloane & Witney, 2011). The Union stands that management doesn’t fully understand the policy and has a double standard by telling employees not to worry. Nepotism is defined as the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs (Oxford University Press, 2010). The Company has failed to demonstrate in any fashion of how nepotism has been applied to the grievant.

The so called policy also states “may become subject to immediate discharge on the first offense” (Sloane & Witney, 2011). The Union stands that the word “may” establishes a choice which in hand the Company so chose to discharge the grievant with no evidence to support the claim of nepotism. The Union for all of the above reasons requests that the board restore Keith W. Walton, an almost 8 year highly rated veteran, to his job of Maintenance Mechanic at the Manatee Plant, and to make him whole for all wages, seniority, benefits, and overtime hours denied him during the period of his improper discharge (Sloane & Witney, 2011). 3. Explain management’s position

The Company reflects that Mr. Walton’s discharge was just and without prejudice on the following grounds. When the Company added the section entitled “Employment of Relatives,” in June of 2003 it states that “ it is the policy of the Company not to employ applicants who are relatives of employees” (U-3). The Union tried in September 2003 during contract negotiations to change the anti-nepotism policy (Co. Brief, p. 13) by adding “relatives of employees shall not be denied the opportunity of working for the Company” (C-15, p. 2, item 42). However, in the 2005 contract negotiations the matter of the anti-nepotism policy was not brought up. The Company therefore states that the Union is attempting to change the rule in an improper forum and “Arbitral jurisprudence clearly establishes” (Co. Brief, p. 14) that this is something that they are not allowed to do (Sloane & Witney, 2011). The Company contends that the no-relative rule is a long-standing Company policy dated before the grievant was hired. The practice predates World War II but it didn’t become written policy until 1977 in a manual only published for the five divisional personnel managers.

It was written officially in the 1995 operations manual which is 4 years before the grievant was hired. In 1998 it was published in the employee handbook, which governs all employees, that employees may be discharged for violation of the anti-nepotism policy (Sloane & Witney, 2011). This policy has been enforced consistently on exactly 23 different occasions, three or four of those occasions’ involved Union workers. In all instances the last employee hired was terminated, which is also what happened in this instance. The Company has always stood on the basis that the less-senior employee has always been terminated. Over the 40-plus years of the no-relative rule, uncle has always been included in defining relative.

The Company cites the Honaker v. Florida Power & Light Co., et al., Case No. 91-113-OrlCiv-Y, where the court states the case could have been dismissed solely on the basis of the Company’s longstanding ‘no-relative’ rule but in fact dismissed Honaker for making a false statement on his employment application (Sloane & Witney, 2011). The Company is exercising its rights from Paragraph 4 of the collective bargaining agreement which gives exclusive rights to hire and exercise full control and discipline over its employees in the interest of conducting its business. Also, the fact remains that no such term restricts the Company’s right to enforce its no-relative policy. Therefore the Company claims that Mr. Walton was discharged from enforcement of its no-relative rule on “pure” anti-nepotism grounds as well as on falsification grounds (Sloane & Witney, 2011). 4. Relate the two positions to the contract language

The Company is just and has the authority to discharge employees which is given to them in Article 1 section 4 titled Management in Company. In this section it states that the Company “has the right to hire, promote, suspend, lay off, discharge and reemploy employees.” The Company has the right to exercise full control and discipline over its own employees (Sloane & Witney, 2011). In the case of Mr. Walton the company feels it is well within their rights to terminate Mr. Walton on the grounds of anti-nepotism. The Company has long stood on the policy of anti-nepotism and even though it is not brought forth within the hiring process, they remain faithful that it is stated in the Employee Manual of 1998 and then again in 2003. The Company believes that Mr. Walton’s discharge should be upheld on the basis of three grounds, The Company had added the section “Employment of Relatives” in 2003 to their employee handbook, the no-relative rule being long-standing and well known, and last, even when there is no evidence of favoritism relatives of current employees were not eligible for hire. The Union has the power to invoke the Board of Arbitration proceeding.

This is outlined in Article 2 Paragraph 22 titled Discharge for Cause. This means when there is a conflict of interest between the Union, the employee or the Company they need to go to an arbitration proceeding to get a ruling. If this ruling is in favor of the employee they could be reinstated and any losses will be reimbursed. The Union is correct and supported by the Memorandum of Understanding Paragraph 27, titled Interpretation of “Without Prejudice”, because the Company is utilizing previous grievances in the Arbitration procedure. Paragraph 27 states it is the mutual understanding of the Company and the Union that the words without prejudice or words of similar import mean that the settlement in which the words were or are used does not constitute a precedent of any kind, nor can the settlement be again brought forth in any future grievance or arbitration procedure (Sloane & Witney, 2011). The understanding of this is that the Company can’t be bringing up past arbitration proceedings to resolve current or future ones. During the arbitration proceedings for grievant Keith W. Walton the Contractual Language comes into play and supports both parties. 5. Discuss your analysis of the remedy

It is unclear what the final decision on this case was; both the Company and the Union had strong positions on the issue. The Company does have the right to terminate any worker at any time. Unfortunately, they used the reason of anti-nepotism, when in all accounts there was clearly no evidence of said violation. Since Mr. Walton did not know that his uncle was an employee of the company at the time of filling out the application he did not fall into the category of falsification of his application. So when it was found almost 8 years later that relatives were working within the same company it violated the Company’s policy of No-relatives. Therefore, in violation of this policy the Company had to terminate Mr. Walton and since they could not categorize the situation underneath falsification the next step was anti-nepotism. The Company had seen cases in the past which were considered a violation and slated this in to compare to Mr. Walton’s case. The Union believes that Mr. Walton was unjustly terminated since there was no clear evidence of the anti-nepotism violation.

They also stand with saying since the policy was unclear, since the employee handbook was rarely seen, the employee was confused by the policy and did not understand the policy in general, and that management of the Company was confused by the policy that the Company did not always uphold this policy and was inconsistently applied. They invoked the Arbitration proceeding to rectify the situation to determine if there was a way to overturn the termination of Mr. Walton. The Union stands that the Company is in violation itself by holding past cases in comparison to this grievance that was never directly related to Mr. Walton and his case. By the Company doing this the Union strongly believes that Mr. Walton should be reinstated in his original positions with full compensation of his losses.

Companies have been found to be over-cautious when invoking anti-nepotism rules; especially when there isn’t a clear conflict of interest occurring says a Tennessee court of Appeals (Allyn, 2012). Nepotism should be taken seriously so that it isn’t allowed like in the recent case in the Justice Department where members are trying to work the system to get friends and family members hired (Lee, 2012) However, nepotism cases do warrant a better look into the case especially when there is none to be found like in the Tennessee case where the appeals court found the Nashville Electric Service’s nepotism policy “arbitrary” and “capricious” (Allyn, 2012). After further review of the facts of this arbitration there is clearly no nepotism has or is occurring between the relationship of Mr. Walton and his uncle, so I find the outcome to be just in making Mr. Walton whole for all wages, seniority, benefits, and overtime hours during his improper discharge.

Bibliography

Allyn, B. (2012, December 26). Marriage leads to demotion for utility worker. Retrieved from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2012/12/26/marriage-leads-to-demotion/1792691/ Lee, K. A. (2012, July 27). Allin the family: Report details cases of nepotism at Justice Department. Retrieved from NY Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/family-report-details-cases-nepotism-justice-department-article-1.1123278 Oxford University Press. (2010, April). nepotism. Retrieved January 20, 2013, from Oxford Dictionaries: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/nepotism Sloane, A. A., & Witney, F. (2011). Labor Relations (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, US: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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