The grievant is an EEO Investigator in the Department’s Bureau of Equal Employment Opportunity. She had approximately four (4) years of seniority when she was given this five (5) day suspension for a violation of DR&C standards of conduct, work rules #22, Falsifying, altering, or removing any official document and #38, Actions that could compromise or impair the ability of the employee to effectively carry out his/her duties as a public employee. The grievant had a written reprimand on her record at the time of the instant violation.
The grievant, who is the president of her local Union chapter, filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commision (OCRC) when DR&C would not give her release time to participate in OCSEA picketing activity as a member of the Union’s privitization committee. The grievant also refused to cooperate with DR&Cs efforts to make her classification exempt from collective bargaining. The grievant’s annual performance evaluation, made in December of 2000, was marked “below expectations” in five of seven areas, mainly because the grievant maintained a backlog of uncompleted investigation reports and poor writing. The grievant’s appeal of this performance evaluation was to no avail, and she was placed on a performance improvement plan to help her become more productive. The grievant cooperated with the performance improvement program, but shortly thereafter she decided to confiscate two completed reports from co-worker’s offices. She made nonsubstantive modifications to these reports and submitted them as her own work. A Supervisor noted inconsistencies in these reports, and an investigation ensued. The grievant admitted to altering and submitting the reports as her own, but stated that it was only in an attempt to discover whether or not she was being treated differently than her coworkers.
Management argued that the grievant admitted to unauthorized removal and altering of two documents that were authored by coworkers. These documents are work product, and, therefore, are official documents. Rule 22 was clearly violated, and the grievant’s motives for this violation are irrelevant. Her actions made it impossible for her Supervisor or coworkers to trust in her integrity which was the basis for the rule 38 violation.
The Union argued that the documents in question were not official documents since the grievant was not the official investigator on the relevant cases. Also, she did not change any substantive content of the documents so any final outcome of the investigations would not have been changed. The grievant felt compelled to protect herself from unfair treatment that could have led to termination. The State’s argument that the grievant is not trustworthy is refuted by it’s own subsequent performance evaluations of the grievant. These evaluations are all satisfactory, and no mention is made in them of the grievant’s credibility.
Arbitrator Smith stated that in view of the grievant’s admission that she took the actions for which she was disciplined, there are only two questions to be considered:
Did her conduct violate departmental rules?
Were there mitigating circumstances?
The Arbitrator found the Union’s arguments to miss the point. The grievant did not make an honest and simple mistake, but deliberately falsified copies of other people’s work product for her own ends. This means that her work can no longer be presumed to be truthful. Following this incident the supervisor was placed in the position of having to scrutinize the grievant’s work for integrity. It is significant that the grievant is an Investigator, a position where the integrity of one’s work is critical to the success of the Bureau as well as of the individual. Her actions reflect upon the Bureau. This case is similar to one in which an arbitrator would hear the case of a close, personal friend. The tribunal would just not look fair regardless of the arbitrator’s ability to put aside the friendship. Management was lenient in this case given that a 5 day suspension is at the lower end of the work rule grid.