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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

UAB, Bloggers, and Double Standards

My case is not the first time UAB has received unwanted attention because of an employee who writes a blog.

In fact, it's not even the first such case in my old office, UAB Periodicals.

One of my former colleagues, Doug Gillett, got into some hot water a few years back because of his blog. Did UAB exhibit consistency in its handling of Doug's case and my case? Uh, not exactly.

In fact, it's hard to imagine two employment-related cases being handled in a more disparate manner. What's the biggest difference between the handling of the two cases? Well, as you can see by checking the personnel roster of UAB Periodicals, Doug still works there.

I do not.

Are there other differences between the two cases? Oh gosh, let me count them all:

* Doug actually was violating UAB policy; I was not;

* Doug actually was using UAB equipment and time to write a blog; I was not;

* Doug actually was using UAB equipment and time for political activity (as defined by university policy); I was not;

* Doug probably violated state election and ethics law; I did not;

* I was harassed for roughly five months by our supervisor, Pam Powell; Doug was not;

* Pam Powell repeatedly made false statements regarding my job performance and behavior; I see no evidence that she ever made false statements regarding Doug;

* Pam Powell launched an "investigation" of my computer use, just five days after I had told her via e-mail that I knew she was lying (and had written proof of it) in a recent statement she had made about my job performance. Was Doug's computer use ever investigated? I don't think so.

* I was placed on administrative leave; Doug was not;

* I was immediately discharged, contrary to university policy; Doug was not;

* Doug, to my knowledge, received a written warning and never missed a day of work; I was immediately fired, and I've been out of work for roughly three months.

Oh, a couple of other differences: I was 51 at the time of my "event," and Doug was around 25. I was a 19-year UAB employee; Doug had worked at UAB for about a year, I think.

Why did UAB handle these two cases so differently? Well, I think there are two reasons, and we will examine those.

But first, let me make this editorial note: I like Doug Gillett a heckuva lot. He's a smart, funny, irreverent "character," and I like "characters." (Heck, I married one.) He and I are on the same page politically, we both like sports and hot French broadcasters, and I considered Doug to be a breath of fresh air in the workplace--a genuine hoot. He's one of many "worker bee" colleagues that I miss a lot.

In fact, as I noted in a recent post, Doug and another one of my 20-something colleagues, Stanley Holditch, pretty much inspired me to write a blog--or at least to think about writing a blog. Without them, I probably still wouldn't know what a blog is. And I probably would have just sat back and taken the royal screw job that corrupt Alabama judges were dishing out.

The point of this post is not to swipe at Doug in any way. The point is to illustrate UAB's duplicitous behavior in its handling of my case, particularly in comparison to a previous case that was far more serious regarding the use of university equipment.

One final point in my editorial note: When Doug got into hot water, I think everyone in our office was afraid he was going to be fired. But I thought UAB handled it the right way. Gary Mans--the same guy who issued President Carol Garrison's goofy statement about me--gathered everyone in our office together and said that Doug had been warned, but was not going to lose his job. Gary reminded all of us that we should not blog or do any kind of political activity at work. But he also added-and I'm paraphrasing here--that the department and the university didn't want to be "computer Nazis." He knew that we all used the Web extensively for our work, and he also knew that most everybody occasionally checked a news site, a sports site, a music site, etc. He said that was fine and he wanted to maintain a relaxed, productive atmosphere. Mainly, he said, just don't blog or engage in political activity at work.

I've not been shy about criticizing Mans for his role in Carol Garrison's statement about my case. The statement was false and defamatory, and it contradicted the findings of UAB's own employee grievance committee. Mans should have been smart enough, or bold enough, to head that off. But in Doug's situation, I thought Mans handled everything just right. Doug should not have been fired, and I think Mans set the right tone, and sent the right message, for Doug and our entire office.

Which brings us back to UAB's double standard. More on that coming up.

(To be continued)

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