Monday, February 6, 2012

Marriage not a basis for termination

          In a case involving the State of Maine and the Maine State Employees Association, Arbitrator Joseph Daly reversed the termination of an employee of the state’s Bureau of Insurance. The termination took place after Grievant submitted an inquiry about whether his participation in the Department’s audit of an insurance company where his wife was employed as a manager would constitute a conflict of interest. After receiving the inquiry, Bureau management, after consultation with its legal counsel, concluded that Grievant’s employment was in violation of a statute prohibiting a “connection” between Bureau employees and insurance company management. Grievant was terminated based upon a “conflict of interest” in violation of the statute.
          Arbitrator Daly concluded that the State failed to establish just cause for the termination. The arbitrator noted that Grievant’s marriage was well known in the Bureau, and that it was undisputed that his termination was not for any form of misconduct. In sustaining the grievance, the arbitrator observed:

          In this case, there is absolutely no evidence of any critical analysis or legal reasoning supporting the legal conclusion that Section 209 disqualified [Grievant] from continued employment with the Bureau. None of the statutory provisions or ethical guidelines introduced into the record clearly compelled [Grievant's] termination; and the notions of ‘fairness’ and ‘reasonableness’ required the State, when determining whether or not to discharge an employee with thirteen years of unblemished service to the State, to gather and present at least a modicum of evidence, or analysis, or reasoning to support its interpretation of the various statutes and ethical guidelines.

          In sum, the arbitrator concluded that the State failed to establish that its interpretation of the relevant statute was correct, and that it failed to demonstrate that it considered any alternatives to termination.

          Arbitrator Daly's award can be found here

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