What’s in a Name?

Disputes often arise from good intentions gone wrong.

Source: Paul Lemon/Shutterstock
Source: Paul Lemon/Shutterstock

In a recent case, the Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) tried to amend its practice for employees wearing name tags.   The change was to have the full name (first and last), job title, and picture of the employee on an identity badge, rather than just the employee’s first name.  As noted in the article, the purpose of implementing this change came as a result of the employer wanting to promote a patient first philosophy and to equalize the balance of power between patient and health care provider.

Click Here to Read the Article.

The union representing the workers, CUPE Local 5111, disagreed and filed a grievance in order to stop this change in practice.  The grievance, as noted in the article was based on several grounds, with the allegation of violation of employee privacy as the primary concern. The matter was not resolved internally.  As a result, the dispute went to arbitration for a final resolution imposed by a three-party panel of arbitrators.

The arbitrators’ decision fell on the side of the union.  The employer had to rescind the new policy and had to implement new cards showing only employee first names, job titles along with a photo.

Click Here to Read the Case.

As you will note, this case is extensive.  It shows the amount of critical detail, witnesses, testimony, legislative impact, evidence of past practice and presentation of other precedent setting cases required in order for this matter to be resolved through a board of arbitration.  It was definitely a costly exercise for everyone involved.

Clearly, our names and our right to protect our own personal privacy has value.

One wonders, however, how much the value of good intentions truly cost all of the parties in this case.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who would benefit from employees wearing name tags with first and last name?
  2. Why do employees, in this case, have a ‘greater’ right to privacy than patients?
  3. What elements of this case would prevent it from being resolved within the applicable grievance resolution process?
  4. Why, do you think, a case like this would proceed to arbitration?
  5. What lessons would you take from your reading of this case?

 

Swan Song for the Public

By the time this blog is posted, the Canadian federal election will be a thing of the past.  One of the more interesting moments that happened during the election campaign was the suspension of a Federal employee, Tony Turner, for writing a song about Prime Minister Steven Harper.

Mr. Turner provides his perspective on what happened in an interview with MetroNews.

As with many things that did not go as planned during the recent election campaign, the suspension of Mr. Turner received international media and extensive social media coverage.

The suspension brings forward very interesting questions about the employment boundaries that may or may not exist for employees in the public service.  They are employees of the federal government, which is led by the Prime Minister of Canada.  There is generally an accepted understanding that employees should not cause harm to or malign the reputation of their employer in the public domain.  In the case of Mr. Turner, does this mean that he should not have made his personal political opinions public? On the other hand, were his actions significant enough to merit a suspension from employment?

It is not surprising that the union representing Mr. Turner filed a grievance in this case.   As for the outcome, Mr. Turner retired from his work with the public service sector, which means that there will be no formal resolution to this grievance.

While we all know what the outcome to the federal election was, we will never know what the outcome for Mr. Turner through his union, would have been.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should public sector employees be subject to disciplinary action for voicing or engaging in personal political activities?
  2. What advice would you, as the HR Practitioner for the Prime Minister’s office, give to the Prime Minister in this case?
  3. From the employer’s perspective, what specific factors merited disciplinary action against Mr. Turner?
  4. Do you think employees in the public service have a ‘higher’ duty of responsibility to their employer? Why or why not?