A just cause refers to the set standards under a collective agreement, which management must follow strictly when disciplining or discharging one of its employees. It simply implies that an employer must have a just and fair reason behind the mentioned acts. This rule is important as it prevents the employee working under a collective agreement from being discharged or disciplined for unfair reasons. It protects their employment rights. This paper considers a case study where a Librarian was given a twenty-day suspicion. It analyses whether or not there was a just cause, before determining what the right course of action should have been for this employee.
In order to determine whether or not there was just cause in the case study, there are specific tests which must be conducted. Ms. Swenson is suspended for allegedly lying about the time a student, Karen, signed in to the Library. Although it is unclear that the school has rules set against lying to other colleagues, this seems to be an issue that is commonly understood (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). Therefore, by lying that Karen was signed in to the Library at the beginning of the period, it is evident that she knew that her actions would lead to consequences in case she is caught. In addition, she already has been on two previous suspensions meaning that her discipline was deteriorating. By now, she should have known that such an action would reflect badly on her career and role in the school. Therefore, there was sufficient notice in relation to just cause.
Reasonable rule is also present, as being truthful when a student misbehaves is very important as it informs the teachers hence facilitating efficient and safe operations (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). In this case, Karen is a special needs student who seems to have frequent personal issues. By not knowing her whereabouts, Ms. Harper could not carry on with the set examinations and instead went looking for her. In addition, when Swenson lied, it is possible that she could be hiding a serious issue with the student which may be controlled before it gets out of hand. Karen may be engaging in destructive and unsafe behavior which may never be identified because of the cover up by the Librarian.
Investigation was done once the issue was brought forward to the right management. Unfortunately, the integrity of the investigation was only fair up until when the employer sent a follow-up seeking clarification on an issue (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). After that, nothing more was heard until the day of the suspension which was approximately four and a half months later. It is unclear as to why it took so long for the decision to be made, or why no follow-ups on progress of the case was being made by the Principal. This silence and sudden suspension is unfair on the part of Ms. Swenson who already thought that the issue was behind her (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). She was not treated justly, as it would have been important to notify her that the investigation was still on-going, and that she should be prepared for any consequences of her actions. However, this was not the case as everyone went silent, going about every day’s activities as usual. Fair investigation was absent due to the time it took to decide on the punishment of the employee (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). By going silent, the employee was denied the right to attain union representation as she thought the issue was behind her. In addition, her right to due process were not respected.
Although the quality of the investigation process is questionable, there was sufficient proof against Ms. Swenson. Aside from the argument by Ms. Harper that she heard her say she would lie, Ms. Swenson herself admits to not being truthful, although she claims that it is not lying but covering up for the student. This is enough evidence that she was standing in the way of efficient operation of the school as the student got away with unacceptable behavior (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). Although she argues that she had no mistake, it is still clear that she acted in an unprofessional manner. This is also capable of interfering with the team work of professionals in the school.
Equal treatment is yet another test that is under question in this case study. Ms. Swenson states that she always asks students to sign up a long time after noticing their presence in the library. She was never punished for the same. Therefore, it may be unfair to punish her for the same mistake when it has been happening frequently in the past and no one seemed to care (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). The Librarian herself, is unsure as to what time should be used when signing in and out of the Library.
Considering the above issues, it is clear that the applied punishment is unjust and unfair. Considering her previous record, it is possible that she deserved the maximum punishment allowed as she has already had two other suspensions. However, considering the integrity of the investigation, and the time taken to rule on the punishment, it will be unfair for her to be given a suspension of 21 days (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). On the contrary, the best mode of punishment will be to issue a written warning against the same issue occurring in future. This is because a lot of time has elapsed since the issue took place. Many had already forgotten about it. Therefore, there is no reason to suspend her after such a long time. With a written suspension, Ms. Swenson will be prepared on how to act in a future situation. This is because she will know that her actions were wrong and the organization will not tolerate a repeat of the same. She will also be notified that the lack of action was due to the elapsed time, and unclear set of rules within the company.
To prevent a repeat of the same in future, the school needs to establish a set of rules for its employees. Here, such issues need to be clearly indicated such that all employees will know how to relate to one another. They will also know what is acceptable and what is not, when in the workplace. Here, the rules will also indicate the job descriptions of all employees, including the Librarian. This will clear off the areas such as the time to use when signing in students. In addition, the school needs to organize workshops and training sessions so that its employee’s skills may be improved and updated frequently. This will result to a smooth operation of the facility. It will also teach the employees on effective teamwork so as to avoid conflicts in future.
Cihon, P., J., & Castagnera, J., O. (2016). Employment and Labor Law. South-Western College/West. ISBN-13: 9781305580015