In Part 1 we explored the concepts of at-will employment, master and servant law and fairness in the workplace for private employees.
Part 2 focused on independent contractor relationships and the limitations or reasons for termination that exist in those relationships.
Part 3 of the series explains fairness in government or union jobs. More specifically the conditions under which government or union employees will be disciplined or terminated from employment.
What about Government or Union Jobs?
Employees who work for federal, state or local governments (also called “public employees”) generally ARE entitled to fair treatment in the management and termination of their employment. State classified and federal government employees have a property interest in their jobs and can only be dismissed for “just cause.” See Dept. of Institutions v. Kinchen, 886 P.2d 700 (Colo. 1994) (regarding State of Colorado employees).
Colorado employees are entitled to a hearing before the Colorado State Personnel Board regarding any decision that affects their pay, status or tenure. At a hearing to determine if a public employee was terminated with just cause, the agency has the burden of proving that the acts or omission on which the discipline was based occurred and that just cause warranted the discipline imposed. Similarly, an employee whose work is subject to a collective bargaining agreement may be entitled to arbitration to determine if he or she was justly terminated.
Of course, “just cause” is not always the same as fairness; unless just cause is otherwise defined in a collective bargaining agreement, however, whether there was just cause for termination is determined by looking at the facts surrounding the termination, including whether the employee was warned or progressive discipline was followed, industry and company practices and the severity of the offense. The common thread among the various definitions of “just cause” is that the decision was reached through reasoned weighing of the evidence, as opposed to having its origins in bias, personal preference or other more arbitrary considerations. In other words, public employees working for a government entity and union employees are entitled to something approaching fairness in their workplace and in their separation from employment.