Must you tell a probationary employee why you fired him?

Midway through Jose Pele's 60-day probationary period, it was apparent to Maintenance Foreman Gary Wellman that the electrician wasn't going to make it.

11/01/1998


Midway through Jose Pele's 60-day probationary period, it was apparent to Maintenance Foreman Gary Wellman that the electrician wasn't going to make it.

The labor agreement specified management's right to fire a new hire any time during the probationary period, for any reason, or for no reason at all. When Wellman broke the bad news, Pele protested.

"I could master this job if you gave me a chance," he insisted. "The reason you're firing me is because you're prejudiced against Hispanic employees."

'That's a lie and you know it," Wellman replied.

"Yeah? If that's not the reason," Pele challenged, "tell me why you're doing it."

"I don't have to tell you a thing. If you read the contract, you'll see that right there in black and white."

Pele refused to settle for that. He charged discrimination and threatened to sue.

Question : The company had experienced discrimination charges in the past. Do you think Pele's request should be granted?

Winston's ruling: After being informed of Pele's threat, Plant Engineer George Winston instructed Wellman to show Pele the performance facts and figures behind the decision to fire him.

"Normally, the contract's language on the subject would be sufficient cause to deny a probationary employee's demand for specifics. But there are similar cases where arbitrators overruled the labor agreement and required the company to divulge the information desired. It will cost nothing to comply with Pele's request, and since the company has been confronted with discrimination charges in the past, I'd suggest that you swallow your pride in this case."





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