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In re Grievance of Aleong

Supreme Court of Vermont

March 21, 2014

In re Grievance of John Aleong

On Appeal from Labor Relations Board Linda P. McIntire, Acting Chair.

Pietro J. Lynn, Robin A. Freeman, Jr. and Scarlett S. MacIlwaine of Lynn, Lynn & Blackman, P.C., Burlington, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Jeffrey J. Nolan and Sophie E. Zdatny of Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C., Burlington, for Defendant-Appellee.

PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Crawford, JJ.

CRAWFORD, J.

¶ 1. Grievant appeals from a decision of the Vermont Labor Relations Board holding that his grievance of the termination of one portion of his teaching position at the University of Vermont falls outside the Board’s jurisdiction. We affirm.

¶ 2. In 1994, the University’s Department of Plant and Soil Science hired grievant as a tenured professor on a 0.8 full-time-equivalent (FTE) basis. The department forms part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) within the University. At the same time, grievant received a supplemental salary for teaching one course per semester at the University’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). The appointment at CEMS was a 0.2 FTE position.

¶ 3. Together, grievant’s two positions added up to full-time employment. Grievant’s initial engagement letter sent to him in March 1994 addressed both teaching assignments. It identified the 0.8 FTE position at CALS as a tenured position. The 0.2 FTE position at CEMS was different. The letter stated that the supplemental position at CEMS “will be provided by that College as long as your teaching is deemed satisfactory by normal University standards.” Since 1994, grievant has taught statistics and related courses at both CALS and CEMS on the 0.8/0.2 basis described in his engagement letter. He has also taught summer school and adult learning courses in addition to his full-time workload.

¶ 4. The University first sought to terminate grievant’s 0.2 FTE position in March 2005 when the chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics within CEMS informed grievant that the 0.2 FTE position would be discontinued due to poor student evaluations, cancelling classes, tardiness in submitting grades, lack of availability outside class, and unresponsiveness to students and supervisors. United Academics, the faculty union, filed a grievance on grievant’s behalf.

¶ 5. The grievance was settled in October 2005 before it could reach the Board. The parties signed a memorandum of understanding (2005 MOU) to memorialize their agreement that the University would continue to offer grievant the 0.2 FTE supplemental teaching assignment at CEMS “until a review has determined that his teaching is not satisfactory by normal University standards.” The grievance was withdrawn. A review of grievant’s teaching performance conducted in the spring semester of 2006 was favorable.

¶ 6. In January 2012, the quality of grievant’s instruction became an issue for a second time. The director of the statistics program within CEMS, Professor Jeffrey Buzas, received student evaluations from four sections of the statistics class taught by grievant during the fall 2011 semester. Once again, the evaluations were poor. The students criticized grievant for a lack of organization and for failing to respond to students’ questions. Students also complained that grievant kept trying to reschedule Friday classes despite student conflicts with the alternative times he proposed.

¶ 7. In response to these complaints, the deans of CEMS and CALS opened a joint investigation. It included a review of the student evaluations by two other professors and interviews of grievant and some of his students from the fall 2011 semester.

¶ 8. In April 2012, the two deans sent grievant a letter summarizing the results of their investigation. The letter was critical of grievant’s teaching during the fall 2011 semester and of what the deans described as a deflection of personal responsibility and a lack of candor about the issue of holding class on Fridays.

¶ 9. Following the deans’ letter, the director of statistics and the chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics sent a letter to grievant that terminated his 0.2 FTE teaching appointment at CEMS. In May 2012, the deans of CEMS and CALS also sent a letter of discipline to grievant reprimanding him for the shortcomings revealed by their investigation. The letter expressly imposed “the following discipline: you will be ineligible for assignments yielding supplemental or additional compensation until the end of the spring 2015 semester.”

¶ 10. In response to the two letters, grievant wrote to the chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at CEMS seeking review of the termination of the 0.2 FTE teaching appointment. He complained about the conduct of the investigation, the absence of “just cause” to support termination of the part-time position, procedural mistakes, and the “untimely basis” of the ...


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