Arbitrator orders Sheriff to reverse wrongful termination
After a year-long struggle, a 521 member won her job back after being wrongfully terminated from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.
In April 2011, Reshmi Prasad was wrongfully accused of alleged misconduct and released from her position as a Corrections Specialist for the Sheriff’s Department.
But with the help of her union steward and her 521 Contract Enforcement Department (CED), Reshmi took her case to arbitration. Earlier this month, the arbitrator rightfully concluded that the County violated her union rights to due process and ordered that she be reinstated to her position with full back pay, benefits, and interest.
“I thank God for all of his blessings and for giving me such great people to fight for me, including my steward, Vicky Haynes. My union gave me a chance to tell my side of the story and never gave up on me. I would encourage more people to join our union, go to meetings, volunteer time to help out, and believe in our union’s commitment to us, because I am living proof that yes, our union does protect us no matter what.”
– Reshmi Prasad, Corrections Specialist, Monterey County Sheriff’s Department
For over a year, Sheriff’s Office managers stalled with our union’s Contract Enforcement Department by withholding crucial evidence and creating secret internal documents – among other things – in an effort to justify their actions. At the hearing, the County’s own witnesses could not confirm that Reshmi made any statements that violated their policies. The allegations were also not substantiated by an audio recording of the incident, which the County’s internal affairs investigators originally concealed from us.
The arbitrator saw through these gimmicks and ruled that managers had violated due process.
“Significant and prejudicial violations of the employee’s due process rights took place in the course of the internal affairs inquiry and the [Skelly] procedure,” the arbitrator noted. “Nor was there timely disclosure to the Union or Ms. Prasad of high-ranking department officers who reviewed the internal affairs report… it suggests that minds were made up in advance of the disciplinary recommendation.”
What is due process?
Due process requires that any deprivation of life, liberty or property be preceded by notice and an opportunity for a hearing. Public employees who may be terminated only for cause have a “property interest” in their continued employment. In California, this is referred to as a Skelly hearing. An important element of due process requires that all evidence upon which a decision to terminate is based must be presented to an employee before the final action is taken. At SEIU we train our stewards to understand due process and we insist that employers comply with its requirements in all disciplinary situations.
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