The president of the Hampstead Hospital chapter of the State Employees’ Association recently won an arbitration hearing against his employer, a private psychiatric and chemical treatment facility in Hampstead, over its retaliatory actions.
The arbitration stemmed from a grievance filed by Sang Saeturn after he was temporarily taken off his regular overnight shift for what was billed as cross training. Saeturn’s grievance alleged that the move was retaliation for his not cutting short his unpaid lunch break when a nursing supervisor requested assistance. Rotating him to the day shift was a dramatic change to his schedule and cost him monetarily, as he lost out on the higher overnight pay differential.
After hearing the facts of the case, the arbitrator eventually sided with Saeturn and the SEA on two issues: first, whether the grievance fell under the terms of arbitration and discipline portions of the contract, and second, if so, whether the hospital violated the contract when it transferred his shifts.
Saeturn said the hospital didn’t make a good case against the grievance.
“The arbitrator definitely looked at the case and made the right call,” he said. “It was a fairly open and shut case. The way they transferred me – they’ve never done that to anybody else.”
In issuing his decision, the arbitrator found the hospital’s actions to be overtly retaliatory.
“The storm clouds of retaliation are in the air and the seeds of discrimination are flourishing,” wrote Parker Denaco, the arbitrator. “The coincidences that have been harmful or unpleasant or costly to the grievant … simply are not and cannot be coincidences. Too much has happened and too many people, the tellers of stories, have been involved.”
Ultimately, the arbitrator ruled that Saeturn would be paid his full differential for all of the cross-training shifts, and he would be exempt from any other cross training until all other third shift workers had rotated through. As of the time of the arbitration, only Saeturn and another worker, coincidentally a key witness, had been temporarily shifted.
Among other portions of the decision, the arbitrator ruled that the hospital “shall cease and desist from any conduct that violates the collective bargaining agreement and/or is discriminatory or retaliatory specifically against the grievant or generally against union officials or employees.”
Saeturn said that the hospital seemed reluctant to follow the terms of the arbitrator’s decision, taking several weeks to issue the differential pay.
“They don’t want to do anything unless they’re being forced to do it,” Saeturn said.
He was also concerned that supervisors were not following the cease and desist order and that was having an effect on the union.
“People on the day shift are still afraid to talk and get involved with the union, because they don’t want to be harassed,” Saeturn said.
Still, he viewed the decision as a clear victory and a show that the union can push back against management harassment or bullying.
SEA Field Representative Chris Long, who argued the case for Saeturn, will be representing Melissa Tuscano, a former hospital employee and union chapter president in her arbitration scheduled for later this month. Tuscano was a witness for Saeturn in his case, and it appears she was dismissed in retaliation for her union involvement. We’ll bring you an update once that arbitration case is settled.