Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is UAB Playing Games With My Termination, Part III

Given the contents of the e-mail I sent UAB HR director Cheryl Locke on July 3 (see the end of previous post), you might think she would be expecting me to voice concerns about her proposal for my return to UAB.

But Locke was shocked, and I think more than a little peeved, that I found serious flaws with her plans for my future at UAB. The flaws in Locke's proposal would be apparent to most anyone with, say, three brain cells. But everywhere I've turned for seven-plus years, people connected to the dark side of my legal episode have talked to me as if I have nothing but empty space between my ears. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Locke would join the crowd.

(A note: Under normal circumstances, I think Locke and I could be buds. She's a graduate of Brown University and came to UAB from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, so obviously she's not a ding dong. She didn't go into specifics, but I get the feeling the two of us are on the same political wavelength. And she has a quirky way about her that I think I would find charming if her superiors at UAB weren't so busy trying to ruin my career.)

So what did I tell Locke? Here is a summary of my responses to her key points:

* Two written warnings--I said returning to UAB with two written warnings in my file was unacceptable, for a number of reasons. The most important is this: I sat through my entire grievance hearing; I heard every word that was said. I saw my supervisor, Pam Powell, asked repeatedly to provide documentation to support her assertions that my performance had declined, that she had warned me about Internet usage, that I had violated any departmental or university policy, etc. She provided no documentation, zip. That's because none of those assertions are based in fact. I told Locke that there was no evidence to support one written warning against me, much less two. In fact, there was no evidence to support discipline of any kind, and I refused to accept unwarranted disciplinary warnings in my personnel file.

(A note: I see no indication in UAB policy that a grievance committee has the authority to substitute one form of punishment for another. The hearing was about my termination [and the grievance I had filed against Pam Powell, which should have been heard earlier and should have precluded my termination], and university policy seems to indicate the committee should have issued only an up or down ruling on that. Clearly, their ruling was to overturn my termination. But Locke said they wanted to substitute the two written warnings. I can only take Locke's word on that. I was not given a copy of the committee's written report.)

Here, though, is a critical issue about the two written warnings: UAB policy is clear that an employee will be automatically fired if he receives three written warnings in an 18-month period of time. UAB's insistence that I have two written warnings if I return, in my view, can only be seen as a set-up. Clearly, the university wants me to sign away my legal rights regarding the current mess they've made and return to work, only to be fired all over again--probably before the November election.

I told Locke that I considered this proposal a set-up, and I told her I considered her proposal to be made in bad faith. She didn't make much of an effort to deny it.

Locke did say that she and the HR staff would make every effort to ensure that I was successful in my new (unspecified) position. She seemed to be saying, "Trust us." For some reason my reservoir of trust for higher-ups around UAB is running a bit low at the moment.

When I pointed out that I would be automatically gone with one more written warning--and that could come for most anything, wearing the wrong color of socks perhaps--Locke said, "Well that would be up to your supervisor."

Somehow, that statement didn't fill me with confidence.

* Placement in a job other than my old one--I told Locke that one of the fundamental ideas in our justice system is that a wronged party be, at a bare minimum, restored (as much as is possible) to the position he was in prior to the wrong. The grievance hearing clearly showed that I was the wronged party. By Locke's own admission, the committee found that I should not have been terminated. And the evidence showed that I should not have been disciplined at all.

While I noted that the grievance process was not the same as a court of law, I refused to accept an outcome where I was wrongfully deprived of a job that I had earned and performed well for 12 years. Locke noted that she thought I would be better off in a different atmosphere. I told her that if the atmosphere was poisoned in my old department, I wasn't the one who poisoned it--and the results of the grievance hearing showed that. I said I was willing to make the effort to return the atmosphere to where it used to be, and if Pam Powell was willing to make a similar effort, there shouldn't be a problem.

Then, just to show Locke that I'm not dense as a doorknob (an old Missouri expression there), I laid this on her: I said it is quite clear to me why UAB does not want me back in my old department. I'm sure that at least one person, and probably multiple people, know that my termination was an elaborate hoax. I suspect a number of people in my old work environment know I was fired, not because of any work deficiencies or policy violations, but because of external pressure stemming from my blog. And I suspect one or two people probably know exactly where that pressure came from, and the pathway that was used to get me fired. Having me around that department on a regular basis would mean that someone might eventually spill the beans to me about what really happened. Locke got this look on her face like, "Damn this guy's not as dumb as I thought."

"Cheryl," I said, "if you are worried about someone spilling the beans to me, you should take that off your mind. I already know what caused me to be fired, and I'm about 90 percent sure who did it and how it was done. So there should be no problem with me returning to my old department. And for good measure, I strongly suspect criminal activity was involved."

I think it's safe to say that statement didn't make her day.

So how did our little summit meeting end? I thought maybe there would be some back and forth, some give and take, maybe a moment or two of negotiation. But Locke made it clear that her proposal would be shoved down my throat, and I would enjoy it, or she was going to uphold my termination--the committee's recommendation, be damned.

(I was starting to realize what Scott Adams was thinking when he created the character "Catbert, evil HR director" for Dilbert.)

The bottom line? Cheryl Locke said she was going to ignore the recommendation of her own committee and uphold my termination. I would be receiving written notice in the mail shortly.

And I am left with these questions:

* Why would UAB insist that I have two unsupported written warnings in my file? What would UAB stand to gain from that? Answer: UAB would have nothing to gain from it. But someone external to UAB would, and they want to see me quietly lured me back to UAB under conditions that would allow me to be fired all over again--in a nice, clean way this time. (Warning: Schnauzers aren't known for going quietly.)

* Why would UAB insist that I return to something other than my old job? Again, what does UAB stand to gain from that? I've already answered that one: They don't want someone spilling the beans about who really is behind my termination. If I remember correctly, UAB has an animal-care facility about 30 or 40 miles from the main campus, in Childersburg or Sylacauga or some such location. They probably would send me to that facility and make me the chief s**t shoveler.

* Why would Cheryl Locke tell me verbally that I would not be allowed to blog anymore if I return to UAB? And make no mistake about it, that's what she said. I have it in my written notes that she was concerned about how a blog would affect my "representation" of UAB. She simply backed down when I asked her to make that statement in writing. If anyone can show how my current blog represents UAB in any way, please let me know. To repeat a question, what would UAB stand to gain from this proposal, given that my blog clearly has nothing to do with the university? Answer: UAB wouldn't gain anything, but someone external to the university would, and that someone still wants to see me out of the blogging business.

A final thought: Being unemployed, when you feel like you should be working, is no fun. Being unemployed when you were cheated out of your job is even less fun. But this firing, in a macabre kind of way, validates what we are doing here at Legal Schnauzer.

If I was some loon, who had his facts messed up and his law mangled, no one would care about it--and I would still have my job. But we are presenting the truth here, and these truths make some folks uncomfortable--so much so that they are willing to take extreme measures to see to it that I lost my job.

I never felt like this blog needed validation from anyone; I knew all along I was on target. But I take some satisfaction that the thugs behind my termination have proven just how on target I really am.

One other side benefit to being unemployed: It has given me more time to truly "research my blog"--on my own time, as I've done it all along. But thanks to UAB, I now have more time to call my own. And we schnauzers like to use our free time wisely.

I've used my free time to uncover some most interesting facts about UAB, some of the people who run it, some people who caused it to make serious missteps, and a justice system that has turned a blind eye to those missteps. I've also uncovered some interesting facts about the GOP power junkies who are riding high these days in Alabama and Mississippi.

Is it possible they won't be riding high for much longer? And does all of this somehow converge in some way that helps explain my termination from UAB?

I think it does. And we will be laying it out in the days ahead.


Unknown said...

I wanted to let you know I've been keeping an eye on this story as it develops and I really wish you the best! The government here in Alabama is out of control. I moved here from San Diego, CA and I have to say, the blatant corruption and strangle-hold they have over day to day freedoms is astounding.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks so much for writing. Hope you like Alabama, in spite of its drawbacks. Gosh, San Diego is a beautiful place. Our humidity might take some adjustments.


Unknown said...

It did and still does. It's not all bad. But sometimes thinking about politics feels like...well...walking outside in August here in Birmingham.

Anonymous said...

I attended freshman orientation at UAB yesterday. There was a spiel on "responsible freedom" and internet footprints that was painfully dull. But this stood out. The IT guy said, "YOU CAN'T BLOG ABOUT ANYTHING YOU WANT. You say, freedom of speech? Your company has the freedom to fire you."

I wondered if I saw schnauzers pouncing behind the portly guy's eyes.

Anonymous said...

Schnauzer Man, as long as we have read your blog and even talked with you on the phone, we had no idea you worked at a university. Obviously you weren't tarnishing their reputation. Best of luck, my friend. It will take a long time for your bruised soul to heal, but like a true schnauzer, you should take out some ass along the way!

Anonymous said...

Have been trying to play 'catch-up' on your archives posts ever since I heard you on Thom Hartmann and Peter B's programs.
I have been following the Seigleman's case for quite awhile and just feel sick to my stomach as to what has happened to I feel doubly sick as to what has happened to you. Sure hope you keep your back covered, sure sounds like you may need too with that crowd down there.

God Almighty!!!! what has happend to our country???
You know, I always dreaded the thought of getting really old, but now that I am here and with what is going on in our country...I'm almost glad my time is nearly over. Don't know how much more I can take before the old ticker gives out completely.....Just hope it holds out until November, got to see if all our work and efforts will pay off.
Take care and keep up the good work.

Unknown said...

One more sinister step toward the total suppression of dissent and free speech in America. In Alabama, apparently university employees aren't allowed, even in their off time, to express opinions contrary to those of the Bush administration.