Thursday, March 10, 2005

More on the Hearing

The party that initiates the termination goes first, so Ms. Ford asked Mr. Queen a number of questions.

She established the dates of employment and rate of pay, and then got into job performance. We still wondered why he had three witnesses with him: two supervisors and another staffer. What could they possibly testify about?

We heard from Mr. Queen that Christina had one day been asked to file patients’ charts on shelves. He stated that she obviously did not like to file because instead of filing she merely moved the charts around on the shelves.

Christina looked at me in shock. I motioned for her not to worry, I would rebut that. We later decided that one of the supervisors would likely be asked to elaborate on that episode. Christina had never heard about that “offense” until the hearing.

Later she explained to me that on the day in question she had spent much of the morning filing photographs and other documents in the patients’ folders, and then had begun filing the folders on the shelves. It quickly became apparent that she would need more room on the shelves to fit in all the now thicker folders. So what is the logical thing to do? You start with the folders at the end of the alphabet and MOVE all the folders in order to spread them out and create more room!

That is what she did, and we’re guessing that at some point the office supervisor noticed her rearranging the folders and ASSUMED she was goofing off but trying to look busy by moving things around. If the supervisor had simply asked, Christina would have explained and there would have been no issue. But nobody asked.

My plans for rebuttal are that I will ask a few simple questions.

1. Did anybody discuss with Christina her undesired behavior?
2. Did anybody investigate or ask why she didn’t appear to be working?
3. Did anybody counsel her or make any attempt to get her to change that behavior?
4. Was any discipline awarded? Was it in writing? Did she sign it?
5. If not (and we know the answers are no), isn’t it obvious that the goal here was simply to fire her, not to get her to improve? This is not misconduct; it’s a lack of management and direction!

Our opinion that they are simply building a case out of nothing has been strengthened. When we heard the list of things she is accused of, it is impressive. It sounds as if she SHOULD have been fired. I’m hoping I can make Ms. Ford see that the manager’s and supervisors’ inaction (no counseling or discipline) points to something other than intentional misconduct on Christina’s part. Her firing was a reduction in force, plain and simple.

I’m working on my list of questions for Mr. Queen when the hearing next continues. If the same telephone issues recur (“I can’t hear the question”) I plan to request an in-person hearing, or require that the other party call in from somewhere other than his office.

I think I’ll be better prepared next time, now that I’ve heard most of their case.

Check back later for more.

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