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ONA to Arbitrate a Grievance Over an Unfair Discipline

In the fall of last year, a nurse at PPMC was disciplined for calling a co-worker a bad name. She has worked at the Hospital for a long time and has good performance evaluations. One day she and her colleague got into it. She felt provoked and out the bad word came. This was a first time offense. This nurse has never used bad language at work directed toward a co-worker before.

The Hospital gave this nurse a written warning. ONA argued in a grievance that a first time offense should be treated with a documented verbal warning a lesser form of discipline. The Hospital is saying that an attendance problem from two years ago (since corrected with no further attendance problems) where a documented verbal warning was given, a billing error and an improperly requested day off (no short staff occurred a form was not filled out correctly), neither of which resulted in discipline just a mention, make a written warning justified.

ONA strongly disagrees. We think proper cause and progressive discipline (Article 12) demand a much clearer nexus. Using bad language, a billing and vacation procedure error, and a previous attendance problem are not related enough to justify a written warning.

The case is important because the Hospital states that they look at "total performance" when it comes to discipline. ONA, on the other hand, insists on a nexus between previous disciplines. It is not fair to include a resolved attendance concern in a matter that arose over inappropriate language for the workplace. If we win the arbitration, we establish what it means to have proper cause and what the Hospital can consider when looking at past issues for the purpose of discipline. If we lose, and we don?t think we will, then we know we have to bargain language in the contract, like many other contracts that we have that sets a time limit on when past discipline for unrelated offenses can be used or allows for removal of items from after a period of time with no re-occurrence.

We do not have many grievances (disputes about contract violations or unfair discipline). Most of the time we can work things out. Arbitration is reserved for those rare occasions where we cannot work it out and the concern has great significance. The right to arbitrate is an important contractual right because it means we have the ability to take our concern to a neutral third party to decide. All other steps in our grievance process rely on internal Providence employees to help resolve the dispute (Unit Manager, Nursing Director, and Hospital Administrator).

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Oregon Nurses Association
18765 SW Boones Ferry Rd. Suite 200, Tualatin, OR 97062
(503) 293-0011 or 800-634-3552 (Oregon Only)