First, a public university in Alabama fired an employee, apparently for making critical statements on his personal blog about the Bush Justice Department and its handling of the Don Siegelman case.
Now the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is making what appears to be a bad-faith effort to lure the blogger back to work. Roger Shuler, who writes the blog Legal Schnauzer, says he almost certainly would be fired all over again if he were to accept the university's offer.
After being fired on May 19, Shuler filed an appeal
through the university's Problem Resolution Procedure (PRP).
UAB policy indicates that the employee grievance committee was to rule up or down on Shuler's termination--that it was either done correctly and his discharge should be upheld, or it was wrongful and he should be reinstated to his old job.
But the university evidently decided the process would not be that straightforward
. In a meeting just a few days after the hearing, Human Resources Director Cheryl Locke told Shuler the committee had recommended that his termination be overturned. But Locke also said that Shuler would have to accept two written warnings in his personnel file and he could only return to a job other than the one he had held at the time of his firing.
Shuler found numerous problems
with Locke's proposal. For one, he was present for the entire grievance hearing and saw that his supervisor, Pam Powell, repeatedly replied "no" when asked if she could present documentation to support the charges against Shuler. Two, UAB policy says that any employee who receives three written warnings in an 18-month period of time is automatically fired.
"UAB's insistence that I return with two written warnings is simply a set-up," Shuler says. "They want me to sign away my legal rights under the current mess they have created, only to be fired a few months down the road for a third written warning that could come for most anything--wearing the wrong color of socks perhaps. Evidence at the grievance hearing showed there were no grounds for any discipline against me--either written or warning--and I know that from sitting through the whole process.
"UAB's proposal clearly is not made in good faith. It's a continuation of the deceitful behavior the university has shown throughout this process. That just strengthens my suspicions that my firing was driven by political forces external to UAB--people who did not like the truths I was presenting on my blog."
When Shuler said that he would not accept the two written warnings and would only return to his old job, Locke informed him that she would uphold the termination---even though her own committee had ruled that it was wrongful.
"It's hard to believe that an HR director would ignore the recommendations of her own committee," Shuler says. "But that's exactly what Locke said she would do. I expect to receive her written notice in the mail any day now."
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