Two wrongful terminations at Rebekah Children’s Services lead to favorable settlements for workers
You are never alone when you have a union. When two SEIU 521 members were unjustly fired by Rebekah Children’s Services, our Contract Enforcement Department fought and won for them.
Deborah Rogers is known in the Morgan Hill community as the consummate volunteer. During her six years with Rebekah — a Bay Area nonprofit that helps find homes for children — she devoted countless hours to soliciting community support for the children, always donating her own time and money to the cause. But no good deed goes unpunished, evidently, because Rebekah’s management trumped up a number of untrue allegations regarding Deborah’s volunteer activities, all based on rumor and hearsay.
Similarly, Christine Jolley was fired based on rumor and hearsay. In the termination notice, management alleged Christine was speaking negatively about them with a parent. SEIU 521 pointed out that management never interviewed the parent to verify if the allegation was true.
“The Union and the CED staff proved to be an immeasurable support to me and guided me through the process,” said Christine. “Because of this, RCS agreed to a settlement in lieu of arbitration, and I can now move on with my life and continue with my passion of helping others.”
In Deborah’s case, management forced her into a hearing, one they would soon regret. A former manager testified for Deborah because he knew the employer had no just cause. “Deborah would never do anything to screw the agency,” he said in the hearing, and he said the investigation conducted by HR was flawed. Even the arbitrator pointed out that management had no witnesses who could confirm Deborah engaged in the conduct alleged, and he asked their HR manager, “Do you see how that’s a problem?” Deborah’s former supervisor also testified for her. He told the arbitrator that by all accounts, Deborah was an outstanding employee who gave selflessly to the organization, always putting the children first.
While it’s unfortunate the children of RCS lost perhaps their most valuable asset in securing community support, we are happy the outcome for Deborah is recognition of the economic harm that management inflicted. Looking back on her experience, Deborah commented, “This is exactly why workers need a union. When managers don’t play by the rules, our union contract is there to protect us.”
What is just cause?
There is no short answer. But for unionized employees, just cause is a standard for discipline which management must meet. To discipline an employee, management must have just cause to do so. Without just cause, discipline is inappropriate, and the union can often argue that management lacked just cause, and therefore the discipline should be reversed. Look for the just cause standard in your union contract.