BEFORE THE ARBITRATOR
In the Matter of the Arbitration of a Dispute Between
LAFAYETTE COUNTY PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES
LOCAL 678, AFSCME, AFL-CIO
(Nancy Disbrow Grievance)
Mr. Thomas Larsen, Staff Representative, Wisconsin Council
40, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, on behalf of Lafayette County Professional Employees Union,
Local 678, AFSCME, AFL-CIO.
Brennan, Steil, Basting & MacDougall, S.C., Attorneys at Law, by Mr.
Howard Goldberg, on behalf of Lafayette County.
Lafayette County Professional Employees Union, Local 678, AFSCME, AFL-CIO,
referred to as the Union, requested that the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission
a staff arbitrator to hear and decide the instant dispute between the Union and Lafayette
hereinafter the County, in accordance with the grievance and arbitration procedures contained
parties' labor agreement. The County subsequently concurred in the request and the
David E. Shaw, of the Commission's staff, was designated to arbitrate in the dispute. A
held before the undersigned on April 19, 2001, in Darlington, Wisconsin. There was no
transcript made of the hearing and post-hearing briefing was completed by August 9, 2001.
upon the evidence and the arguments of the parties, the undersigned makes and issues the
The parties stipulated to the following statement of the issues:
Did the Employer have just cause to discipline the employee? If
not, what is the appropriate
The following provision of the parties' Agreement is cited:
Article III Employee Discipline
Non-probationary employees shall not be
disciplined, suspended, disciplinarily demoted or
discharged without just cause. Written notice of the suspension, discipline, disciplinary
discharge or the reason for the action shall be given to the employee with a copy to the local
within five (5) working days after such disciplinary action is taken.
The City maintains and operates the Lafayette County Human Services Department.
Grievant, Nancy Disbrow, currently holds the position of CAN Investigator/Case Manager,
In early 1999, the Grievant responded to an advertisement the Department had placed
area newspaper, which stated, in relevant part, as follows:
CASE MANAGER/CAN INVESTIGATOR
Qualifications: Graduation from an
accredited college with a degree in social work, guidance
and counseling, psychology, or relevant field of study. A minimum of one year of
experience, preferably in association with a community-base social/human services program.
Knowledge of Chapter 48, Family Systems theory, and eligibility for a social work license is
Will perform all phases of child abuse and neglect investigations; provide case
management for families receiving voluntary or court-ordered services using family systems
provide crisis and emergency counseling and intervention as a member of the agency's
network; and perform other duties as assigned by administrative personnel.
. . .
The job description for that position stated, in relevant part:
Graduation from an accredited college with
a degree in social work or other related field of
study. A minimum of two years of work-related experience, preferably involved in
a family-based social/human services program. Knowledge of, and experience with, Chapter
Family Systems theory is necessary.
With appropriate supervision from the
Family Services Supervisor, will perform the following:
Perform all phases of child abuse
and neglect investigations (approximately 50% of time);
Interview, assess, and evaluate
individuals and families who present themselves for on-going services;
Serve as case manager for purpose
of developing social/human service plans for those clients to
whom he/she has been assigned;
Provide crisis and emergency
counseling and intervention on behalf of all agency population groups
as a member of the agency's on-call network;
Provide outreach, aftercare,
follow-up, and community liaison where appropriate;
Provide professional consultaton
(sic) and community education programs upon request;
Participate in continuing education
and perform other duties as assigned by administrative personnel;
Ability to work flexible hours.
Possess basic knowledge and
Human growth and behavior with
special emphasis on family systems, abuse, and neglect;
Current social and economic
problems, and the manner in which these problems affect children and
Knowledge of range of available services for children
Laws, regulations, and practices
pertaining to federal and state social/human services programs;
Approved social work principles,
methods, and practices;
Eligibility for Wisconsin Social
Valid driver's license and is subject
to county and agency policies;
The Grievant has a B.A. degree in Social Work and is
as a social worker by the State
of Wisconsin. She has prior experience as a Juvenile Probation Officer and Intake Worker in
County, Client Services Worker for the Office of the Public Defender, Social Worker II and
Marathon County, and as a Human Services Professional for Lutheran Social Services.
As part of her duties when hired by Lafayette County, the Grievant was the "back
Investigator. According to the Grievant, she was told she would get training in that function
the person who was the primary investigator, but she was only able to go out with her twice
that person became ill and went on a leave of absence in October of 1999. By that time, the
had been assigned eight CAN investigations, at least two of which were "substantiated". At
the Grievant became the primary CAN Investigator in the Department, with other Social
serving as backup investigators.
CAN is an acronym for Child Abuse and Neglect. When the Department is notified
allegation of possible juvenile abuse or neglect, one of the Department's CAN Investigators
assigned to investigate the matter and prepare a report of his/her findings. Per state statute,
lines for completing interviews, completing the investigation and issuing the report are
by the Child Protective Services "investigation standards" issued by the State's Department
and Social Services. Those standards also establish the procedures to be followed and the
documentation required, depending on the situation. In summary, the standards require that
assessment be completed within a maximum of five (5) days of receiving the report of
or neglect, i.e. whether the report is "unsubstantiated" or "substantiated", and that the
and report be completed within 60 days of the receipt of the report of possible abuse or
more detail, the standards require that:
The investigation must be completed within sixty days of the
receipt of the report. At completion
of the investigation, the record must contain:
Documentation of all decisions and
information gathering, as described above
Documentation of closure with the
family, including discussion of the results of the investigation and
decisions regarding ongoing service provision and referral, if appropriate
Documentation of feedback to the mandated reporter, if
Supervisor signature indicating
approval of the process and decision making, including any deviation
from the Standard.
. . .
Within sixty days, the investigating agency must forward a report
containing the following to the
Any safety issues to be addressed
Any unmet service needs for the
Any unmet service needs for the foster parents which
result in risk of maltreatment
Any licensing issues to be
Documentation of all decisions and information
gathering, as described above
DCS-40 form containing the
investigation activity; as described in the Numbered Memo on
Independent Investigation of Child Abuse and Neglect Cases
Supervisor signature indicating
approval of process and decisions, including any deviation from the
The person who does the investigation must also do the report.
The Grievant's current supervisor, Brenda Poss, was hired as
the Department's Family
Services Manager in December of 1999. Poss is the Grievant's fifth supervisor since she
in April of 1999. The Department had been going through transition and had an acting
a time. All of the Grievant's former supervisors are still in the Department and one of them,
MacDonald, is now the Department's Director.
In October of 1999, the Grievant became the "primary" CAN Investigator in the
when the person with that responsibility went on a medical leave of absence. Three other
in the Family Services Unit also did, and do, CAN investigations. In addition to her CAN
investigation responsibilities, the Grievant is also assigned cases as case manager. Such case
assignments are limited to 10 at most and Poss has tried to make sure they are "low activity"
but that is not always possible.
When Poss became the Grievant's supervisor she was informed by MacDonald that
Grievant's overdue CAN reports was a concern. Poss met with the Grievant in January of
discuss the 20 overdue reports the Grievant had at the time. According to Poss, the Grievant
indicated she felt the causes were a lack of supervision, a lack of training or guidance on the
and case overload. Poss offered the Grievant a computer and was advised the latter did not
how to type and the Grievant refused the offer of a typing program to learn. Poss told the
she should consider flexing her hours so she could work on the reports in the evening, or on
weekends when she would be bothered less, but the Grievant said she would not do that
got compensatory time at time and one-half. Poss also offered to have the Grievant's
notes transcribed to assist her.
The Grievant continued to have more reports become overdue. In February of 2000,
Department was audited by the State. Due to a backlog of overdue reports from 1999, the
developed a "fast track" program county agencies could use to do "unsubstantiated" reports
1999 and only on a one-time basis. The "fast track" is a minimized version (2 pages) of a
report (average of 4-6 pages).
On March 9, 2000, Poss again met with the Grievant to discuss overdue reports.
worked out an "action plan" that included a schedule designating "protected periods" during
the Grievant could work on reports without interruptions, during the following week. The
told Poss she would complete and submit four CAN reports to Poss by March 17,
Grievant was again offered a tutorial program for typing and using the computer, but rejected
offer, choosing to continue to write the reports by hand.
The Grievant only submitted three CAN reports by March 17th and
was given a "verbal
warning" regarding her overdue reports. Another plan that included "protected time" was
and the Grievant was advised she would receive a written reprimand if she did not
complete the plan. According to Poss, the Grievant was "tearful" and stated "I just can't do
with all the assessments that come in."
Poss testified that the Grievant had been assigned 17 of the 27 CAN cases that were
from October through December, 1999, and was assigned 13 such cases from
January 1 to March
6, 2000. The Grievant continued to schedule "protected time" to do her reports. In May,
Grievant went on a leave of absence under the FMLA to care for her ill
mother. The Grievant had 10 reports overdue when she left on leave and three more
overdue while she was gone. She submitted two overdue substantiated reports while she was
leave of absence. Four more reports became overdue when the Grievant returned to work in
In July of 2000, the Grievant was given an annual performance evaluation by Poss.
evaluation noted the continuing problem with overdue CAN reports. At this time, the
had three overdue reports from 1999 and 17 overdue reports from 2000, despite efforts to
current. The evaluation also stated that the Grievant was still in the "learning stages" with
CAN assessments and report writing. Poss and the Grievant established annual objectives
included completing overdue assessments and spending 2-4 hours daily to work on overdue
as allowed by CAN assessment demands, by not trying to submit "perfect" reports, utilizing
computer typing skills program, and attending more training. There were to be no overdue
as of January 8, 2001, a date selected by the Grievant, and she was to remain current on
assessments once the overdue reports were completed. The Grievant indicated on the
she offered to work overtime to complete the overdue reports, but was denied that option.
of the objectives, the Grievant was to complete at least one overdue report a week while
current on present reports and to increase that output to completing three overdue reports per
with the understanding that the Grievant was to give priority to court disposition cases and
On July 20, 2000, Poss met with the Grievant to discuss how she was taking her
a problem of being habitually late to work, as well as the fact that she was not complying
She asked the Grievant if she could do anything to assist her, and was told, "No." The week
14, 2000 the Grievant completed one overdue unsubstantiated report, two substantiated
reports the following week, one not overdue substantiated report the following week, (but no
overdue reports), no reports on August 4, one overdue report on August 11, and two overdue
on August 17. On August 25, the Grievant submitted no reports, and one became overdue,
also the case on September 1, 2000.
On or about August 27, Poss received a telephone call, and subsequently a
from the County's Juvenile Intake Worker, Laurie Hodgson, regarding the timeliness of a
substantiated report done by the Grievant. The matter was referred on October 5,
1999, so that the
report was due on December 5, 1999. Hodgson received the completed report on August 14,
This was a substantiated case and Hodgson wanted to pursue a higher level disposition, but
precluded from doing so because the timelines for doing so had passed. Hodgson also had
a memorandum on August 21 noting her concerns regarding CAN investigation reports she
received. Of the 19 missing reports, 16 were reports that were overdue from the Grievant.
Hodgson's memorandums were forwarded to MacDonald by Poss, along with a memorandum
detailing the Grievant's failure to comply with the action plan.
On September 7, 2000, MacDonald issued the Grievant the following written
This memo shall serve as your official notice that you are being
disciplined for the following
1) Failure to complete your
work in a timely manner. You currently have 15 overdue Child
Abuse and Neglect Reports. One additional report will become overdue in the next two
weeks if it is not completed soon. (Attachment A).
2) Failure to complete
substantiated CAN reports in the time frame outlined in the State statute,
which has resulted in a difficult situation for the Juvenile Court Intake person and made it
difficult for the District Attorney to complete her job in a timely manner. (Attachment B).
3) Placing a child in a
vulnerable position by not completing an investigation according to the
Child Protective Services Investigation Standards. (Attachment C).
(For specific information
regarding the identified issues see the attached
The course of discipline will follow the
guidelines from the Union contract and will be
progressive in nature. You have already received a verbal warning for the tardiness of your
reports. Your supervisor established an agreed upon resolution to the problem and you have
failed to comply with plan (sic) in a number of points. Therefore, this shall be considered a
final warning. As part of your discipline you will confine yourself to your office for a
of one week (five working days) to commence on the following Monday, September 11,
2000. By 4:30 pm on Friday, September 15, 2000 you are to have turned in all reports due
to your supervisor. During this time you will be relieved of all your duties outside
the over due reports and any report that may become over due in the mean time.
You will not be allowed to utilize
flex-time, over-time, compensatory time, vacation, personal
leave, or any other form of time off other than in the case of illness. If an illness ensues
two one week time frame the termination date of the
discipline will be extended
one hour for every hour of work that is missed due to the illness. This does not change any
standardized policies regarding sick leave.
If you fail to complete all over due
reports, including any that come due during the
disciplinary period you will be terminated. If your (sic) able to complete the assigned tasks
on or before Friday September 15, 2000 your other duties will then be returned to you. You
will begin receiving new cases to investigate and any other duties that would be deemed
appropriate to your position and job description. Also, you are hereby
notified that if any
subsequent report is turned in late (past the 60 days) you will be further
disciplined, including but not limited to termination. If this problem persists beyond that
you will be terminated for not complying with the requirements of the laws which govern the
role of a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator.
The Grievant was given the entire week of September 11 as "protected time" to
complete the reports.
Poss and the Grievant agree that it takes approximately 1 hour/page to do a report.
Of the matters for which the Grievant received the written warning, 3) was regarding
a fast-tracked unsubstantiated report the Grievant and Poss did regarding a December 13,
alleging sexual abuse of a young girl by a stepfather. The Grievant concluded it was
however, there is a dispute as to whether the Grievant mentioned to Poss when they were
report (Poss asks the form questions and Grievant gives answers) that there had also been an
allegation of abuse by a stepbrother in the girl's father's home. Poss testified the Grievant
mention the stepbrother to her in doing the report, while the Grievant testified that she had
Poss even responded it was Illinois' problem, not theirs. The Grievant's notes from her
did mention alleged abuse by the stepbrother, and the original allegation also included the
On September 11, 2000, the Grievant was 55 minutes late for work, arriving at
8:55 a.m., and
was given a verbal warning for being tardy. The Grievant had been allowed to flex her
come in at 8:30 a.m., but the September 7th warning had stated she could
not use flex-time during the
week she was given to catch up on her work. The Grievant testified she had went to bed at
and overslept that morning.
The Grievant requested additional time to complete her overdue reports and
granted her request on September 15th by the following memorandum to the
In reply to your request for leniency your supervisor and I have
come to the following agreement:
You will have all reports done and
in typing for final draft by Tuesday, September 19, 2000 at 4:30
pm. In other words, they must have been written, typed, and edited by your Supervisor.
All paperwork (CFS-40, HSRS,
etc.) must be completed and turned in to Brenda by September 19,
The other conditions of the original agreement will
re-main in effect.
The final typed reports you are not
be (sic) held responsible for them not being through the entire
process for the "Official Case Record".
The Grievant completed all of her overdue reports to the
required by September 19th.
However, she failed to timely file a report due on September 23, 2000, a Saturday, filing a
it on Monday, September 25. Because of the 60-day time limit, the report would have had
completed and filed on Friday, September 22. The Grievant testified she had miscalculated
was due. On September 27, 2000, the Grievant was given a one-day unpaid suspension for
filing a completed CAN report. The suspension was served on October 3, 2000.
The written warning and suspension for not timely filing her CAN reports and the
warning for tardiness on September 11 were all grieved in a written grievance filed by
September 27, 2000. The parties attempted to resolve their disputes, but were unsuccessful,
proceeded to arbitration before the undersigned.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
The County notes that the Agreement requires just cause for discipline. It then cites
following definition of "just cause":
"Just Cause: Proper or sufficient
reasons for disciplinary measures imposed on workers by
management. The term is commonly used in agreement provisions to safeguard workers
disciplinary action which is unjust, arbitrary, capricious or which lacks some reasonable
for its support. Disciplinary action also may be held to be lacking "just cause" if the
no reasonable relationship to the degree of the alleged offense."
Public Sector Labor Relations,
by Mulcahy & Wherry, at page 6-5.
The County asserts that the significant facts in this case are not in dispute and that the
demonstrates that the CAN investigations must be completed within sixty (60) days of
early as January of 2000, Poss spoke to the Grievant about her large backlog of overdue
State did an audit of the County's report log and found it in violation of the requirements,
the County a one-time opportunity to "fast track" unsubstantiated reports. Poss attempted to
with the Grievant to reduce her backlog by giving her "protected time" and setting up an
which required the Grievant to complete a certain number of overdue reports by a date
Failing to comply with the plan, the Grievant was given a verbal warning. The
given a second action plan after an annual evaluation, which required her to complete one
report each week in addition to keeping current with her present work. The plan was agreed
the Grievant. In the span of the next seven weeks, the Grievant failed to complete at least
overdue report in four different weeks. Because of the Grievant's delinquency in preparing
reports, the County was unable to prosecute a substantiated case of child abuse, the report
submitted over 10 months after the allegations were first reported. In another instance, the
failed to set forth the facts in a report regarding sexual abuse to a young girl, resulting in the
being placed back in a place of jeopardy. Upon being advised of these facts, the Director
Grievant a written warning, and directed her to eliminate her report backlog by a date
Grievant was warned that failure to complete this work within the allotted time would result
termination. He also warned her that any future failure to complete reports within the time
would result in further discipline. The Grievant then failed to report to work on time during
period she was given to complete her backlog, acknowledging that she had over overslept.
been previously warned by Poss that she had to correct her "habitual lateness to work", the
was given a verbal warning for tardiness. While the Grievant was able to eliminate her
directed, she was late in completing the very next assessment report when it became due.
Grievant was then given the one-day suspension. The Grievant admitted the report was late,
explained that she had miscalculated the time it was due.
According to the County, the foregoing demonstrates that it has been exceedingly
the Grievant. The rules regarding the preparation of the reports are established by the State,
County is required to obey them. The subject matter of child abuse and neglect is extremely
and it is important that they be dealt with in a timely fashion. It is appropriate for the
require its employees to comply with the law and to impose discipline when they fail to do
being warned. In this case, the County has followed progressive discipline consistent with
cause" standard. The County did not lack a reasonable foundation for the discipline
the penalties were appropriate.
In its reply brief, the County asserts that the Union incorrectly stated the issue to be
in this case in its brief. Stating that the issue to be resolved is limited to the discipline
September 7 (written warning) and September 11 (verbal warning for tardiness), the Union
no mention of the September 27 suspension. The record shows that the Grievant grieved the
warning for failure to complete her overdue CAN reports, the verbal warning for tardiness
September 11, and the one-day suspension on September 27 for failure to timely
prepare her CAN
reports. The grievance, dated September 27, 2000, expressly refers to all three of the
The County also asserts that while the Grievant does not dispute that she failed to
prepare her CAN reports, nor that she was almost an hour late on September 11, she
divert criticism from herself onto the County. The Union argues that she was being required
perform a volume of work that could not be accomplished, criticizes her "lack of training"
number of supervisors she has had, and even criticizes the State for its time lines. The
an experienced social worker who applied for a job that required her to do CAN
was either able to do that job when she applied, or she could not. There is nothing in the
shows the Grievant requested more training or a change in supervisors.
There is also nothing in the record to reflect that the Grievant's case load was
The Union provided statistics from 1998 through 2000 showing the number of CAN reports
during each of those years. Those exhibits show that the caseload assigned to the Grievant
consistent with, or a little less than, the number of cases handled in prior years.
The assertion that the problem she faced was statewide is not supported by any
the record. The record shows that the County was audited by the State for its abuse
the Spring of 2000 and that Poss was able to convince the State auditor to permit the County
a "fast track" procedure to allow it to catch up. The Grievant was thus given a unique
opportunity to catch up. That opportunity does not reflect either the volume of the
workload or any type of state-wide trend such as is argued by the Union.
While the Grievant acknowledged that her reports were overdue, she blames her
because the latter was aware the Grievant was behind in her work. That does not justify the
Grievant's failure to perform her work; rather, it reflects the fact that the supervisor was
help her, rather than punish her. Further, the Grievant was not disciplined for being behind
reports. It is undisputed that Poss and the Grievant sat down in July of 2000 to discuss the
deadline problem and that they mutually devised a strategy designed to
eliminate the backlog. The Grievant agreed to the plan whereby she would stay
current with her new
cases and eliminate the backlog reports. The Grievant acknowledges that it only takes her
per page to prepare the reports and that they average six pages in length. Thus, had the
spent just six hours per week to complete one delinquent report, she would not have received
discipline. It was her failure to abide by the program that resulted in the discipline. At that
time, the Grievant had been very sloppy in the way she handled two investigations. Thus,
the subsequent discipline for tardiness and for being late in the preparation of her CAN
the result of her continued failure to abide by reasonable work directives.
The County concludes that the Grievant failed to adequately perform the job she was
to do, that supervision attempted to work with her to solve the problem, and that in spite of
efforts, the Grievant still failed to adequately perform her duties, resulting in her being
Progressive discipline was followed, and both the reason for the discipline and the penalties
were appropriate. Given the importance of the job the Grievant performs and that the
acknowledged that she missed all of the deadlines that are involved, without offering an
reason to overturn the discipline, the grievance should be denied. 1/
1/ The County also notes
that the Union's brief was filed after the mutually-agreed upon deadline without the Union
ever requesting an
extension of time. The County asserts that the Union's brief should therefore be
disregarded. As it appears this was due to an oversight and no
harm was done to the County, this request is rejected.
The Union asserts that the issue is whether the County had just cause to discipline the
Grievant on September 7 and 11, 2000, and takes the position that the disciplinary actions
removed from her personnel file and she should be made whole for all lost wages and
By way of background, the Union notes that the Grievant was initially hired to do
mental health commitments and handle the overflow of CAN assessments, as well as
responsibility for ongoing juvenile cases (CHIPS and JIPS). Another person was primarily
responsible for the CAN assessments at the time, and the Grievant was only a backup until
1999, when the other person went on a medical leave of absence, leaving the Grievant to be
primary person to do CAN assessments. Until that time, the Grievant had only handled two
substantiated CAN cases and had not received any formal training. Further, the Grievant
responsible for handling many of the cases she had previously been assigned. When the
was originally primarily responsible for the CAN assessments returned, she transferred to a
position and the Grievant became the CAN case
manager. During that period and through December, the Grievant was supervised by a
of temporary department managers, none of whom gave much attention to the issues
arising in the unit. When Poss was hired in December of 1999, she was informed of
about the overdue CAN reports and met with the Grievant in January of 2000 and discussed
status of the overdue reports. The Grievant indicated that she would work on clearing up the
backlog, and some effort was made to suggest ways to speed up the process, however, the
continued to manage a full caseload.
In early 2000 the State established the "fast track" method allowing for the use of
formats in order to help clear up the backlog. This process was utilized throughout the state.
Grievant was on family leave from mid-May until mid-June, although it had been expected to
longer. During that time, she continued to submit CAN reports.
Regarding the reports, Poss related that the Grievant did a very complete report,
possibly take longer than the average of one hour per page, and that she did them longhand,
Poss did hers on a computer. Poss further testified that the Grievant had good interviewing
generally did very good work. The Grievant received her first performance appraisal in July
and while the appraisal noted the continuing problem with overdue reports, it also noted that
Grievant was "still in the beginning stages regarding CA/N assess & report writing."
also showed that the Grievant "does meet face-to-face timelines consistently in every case."
general, except for the backlog of CAN reports, the appraisal indicated the Grievant was
By way of argument, the Union asserts that the Grievant has been placed in a position
required to perform a volume of work that cannot be accomplished. This is evident by the
information presented at hearing. Most telling, was the fact that the State found it necessary
provide a "fast track" for CAN reports, not only for this County, but throughout the state.
demonstrates a recognition that the specified process for investigating and completing CAN
exceeds the ability of a primary CAN investigator to meet. While the County asserts that it
efforts to permit the Grievant to catch up, they were insufficient to achieve the specified
one primary way to accomplish the goal of catching up on reports was to allow overtime, but
option was denied to the Grievant.
The Grievant made extraordinary efforts to catch up on the overdue reports, including
working on them while on family leave, weekends and nights, and this in fact resulted in her
late to work on September 11. Rather than recognize her efforts, the Grievant was
tardiness despite the fact she did not have a record of excessive tardiness.
According to the Union, the September 7 discipline is a clear case of "cover your
ass" by the
County. It was only after receiving a letter from the court that the Grievant was cited
for her part, although it is not clear why. The County was fully aware that CAN
overdue, and it was also clear that the supervisor was involved in reviewing the case in
on. The County is using circumstances which occurred subsequent to the period during
Grievant was actively investigating the matter, to make the allegation that a child was put in
While it appears that the system did not work as well as it should have, it is clear that the
did nothing of a negligent nature. Her only problem was that this report, along with many
involving unsubstantiated matters, did not get completed within the ideal time frame.
The Union concludes that the Grievant was placed in an untenable position, lacking
training and lacking consistent supervision, and was left to sink or swim on her own. While
eventually made an effort to help resolve these issues, it was too little too late, and when the
began to close in, the Grievant was used as a scapegoat. While the Grievant had some
regarding typing skills, etc., her overall level of performance was very good. Except for the
after-the-fact second guessing on one incident, there is no dispute that the Grievant is very
proficient, the main
complaint being that she does too good of a job perfecting her reports. The Union concludes
the Grievant should have been given more support instead of being blamed. The Union
the disciplinary actions be removed from her personnel file, and that she be made whole for
wages and benefits.
With regard to the issues, as noted above, the parties stipulated to the statement of
Did the Employer have just cause to discipline the employee? If
not, what is the appropriate
The parties also submitted as a joint exhibit the Grievant's written grievance of
September 27, 2000,
which states it is a "grievance regarding disciplinary actions" and which references the
imposed on September 7, September 11 and September 27, 2000. The parties also litigated
of those disciplinary actions at hearing. Thus, all three actions are deemed to be before the
in this case.
As to the merits of the discipline, the parties' Agreement requires in Article III that
County have just cause to discipline an employee. To establish that it had just cause, the
establish in this case that the Grievant engaged in actions in which the County, as an
a disciplinary interest, and that the penalty imposed was appropriate under the circumstances.
As to the Grievant's conduct, with certain exceptions, most of the facts in this case
in dispute. It is not disputed that the Grievant's original position for which she was hired
being a backup CAN Investigator and that she did not have an opportunity for a lot of
training in that regard before she was placed in the position of having to be the primary CAN
Investigator. It is also undisputed that until Poss became her supervisor in December of
she did not have the same supervisor much longer than two months at a time.
From the statistics submitted, it appears that the Grievant's predecessor was assigned
assessments in 1998 and 53 at the time she went on a medical leave of absence in October of
The Grievant was assigned 26 in 1999, eight of which had been assigned by the time her
went on leave that year, and was assigned 60 in 2000. At least as compared to her
does not appear that the Grievant's case load was higher than normal, and was in fact less
of her predecessor.
While it appears from her July, 2000 evaluation of the Grievant that Poss considered
to be in the learning stages regarding CAN investigations, it is also noted that the Grievant
experienced social worker and by that time had been performing such investigations for at
year. It is further noted that Poss had offered training to the Grievant to enhance her typing
computer skills to allow her to do the reports quicker, which the Grievant rejected, and had
for her to have "protected time" for her to work undisturbed to catch up on her overdue
Poss and the Grievant had agreed in July, 2000 to a plan whereby the latter was to stay
to submit a minimum of one overdue CAN report each week, with a goal of being
up by January 8, 2001.
By September 1, 2000, the Grievant was not only not submitting any overdue reports,
having more reports come overdue. The Grievant had previously received a verbal warning
of 2000 for not catching up on overdue CAN reports. The written warning received on
7, 2000 was based, in part, on the Grievant's continued failure to do so. While the Grievant
she was too busy doing current CAN assessments to keep up, given the efforts to assist the
as well as her apparent agreement that the plan agreed to in July was reasonable, a written
was not unwarranted at this point.
As to the second basis for the September 7th written warning, it is
also not unreasonable to
hold the Grievant responsible for the consequences of not filing timely reports. The report
so overdue that Hodgson could not pursue the case at a higher level, was due on December
and was completed on August 14, 2000, more than eight months overdue.
As to the third basis for the September 7th warning, it is the
Grievant's word against Poss' as
to whether the former mentioned the stepbrother when she and Poss were doing a "fast
of the report on that case. The record indicates that the original allegation in that case
girl's stepbrother, as well as her stepfather, and that the Grievant's investigation notes
such an allegation from the girl. It is noted that one of the observations made by Poss of the
was that she was very detailed and thorough in her reports, perhaps too much so. It would
out of character for the Grievant to omit any reference to the stepbrother from the report.
the Grievant not only testified that she mentioned it to Poss, but that Poss responded to the
it was Illinois' problem, not their agency's. The Grievant is found to be more credible on
Therefore, that matter is not considered a valid basis for the discipline. That said, the first
matters are a sufficient basis to raise the level of discipline to written warning.
On September 11 the Grievant overslept and was 55 minutes late for work and
verbal warning for tardiness as a result. There is not much that needs to be said.
responsible for being at work on time and, absent some sort of exigent circumstances not
here, oversleeping is not a reasonable excuse for being late. It is therefore concluded that
had just cause to impose the lowest level of discipline, a verbal warning.
Regarding the suspension, it is again undisputed that the Grievant filed another CAN
late on September 25. The Grievant had been given the week of September 11 to complete
overdue reports and, at her request, that time had been extended to the end of the day on
19. In the written warning received on September 7, the Grievant was warned that "if
report is turned in late (past 60 days) you will be further disciplined, including but not
termination." The Grievant's defense is that she miscalculated the time line, thinking that
file the report on the following Monday, since it was due on Saturday. That defense is not
Presumably, the Grievant was familiar by this time with the time lines and how they are
Further, the report filed on the Monday was apparently not put in final form until the next
day. It is
also noted that the County imposed the minimum penalty of the next level of discipline
unpaid suspension. Under the circumstances, the County was justified in moving to that next
of discipline in this regard.
In summary, the Grievant does not present an unsympathetic case. Her job is
stressful, and it appears that with the one exception (found unmerited), there is no complaint
quality of the CAN investigations she performs, nor with the quality and thoroughness of her
The one overriding complaint is that she is unable to meet the required time lines for filing
reports. As has been shown, her not doing so can have a substantive impact on the
ability to take the appropriate action on behalf of a child in need of protection. However,
degree to which her supervisors have gone to assist her in getting timely, and her refusal to
some of that assistance that might enable
her to more quickly complete her reports, the Grievant must bear the responsibility for
untimely. Given the foregoing, and the serious consequences that can result from her failure
her reports on time, it is concluded that the City had just cause to discipline the Grievant on
September 7, September 11, and September 27, 2000.
Based upon the above and foregoing, the evidence and the arguments of the parties,
undersigned makes and issues the following
The grievance is denied.
Dated at Madison, Wisconsin this 19th day of November, 2001.