Arbitrator Orders Reinstatement of College Program Coordinator

An Oregon Community College with a very successful Medical Office Assistant training program moved the program out of one division into another because of a personal conflict between the Program Coordinator and the Dean of the Health Professions Division, who required the program to accept her husband as a candidate, but he then failed the program. For several years after, the program was moved around campus and twice “reviewed” by outside experts. One such expert issued a report recommending program revisions, without speaking to any of the faculty. Many of the proposed changes were ones long requested by the Program Coordinator who had fallen out of favor with the Dean.

As a result of the new report, the College decided to replace the Program Coordinator, without any corrective evaluation process. The College first claimed that the incumbent Coordinator was unable to implement the changes, but then changed its position and claimed that the change was needed because of promises made to local employers. It then moved the program back under the Dean of the Health Professions Division, and hired a replacement Coordinator. The union grieved the change, even though it did not affect the pay of the removed Coordinator, who was assigned other work.

After two days of hearing, the independent Arbitrator determined that (1) the College never offered a cogent explanation for the decision to replace the old Coordinator; (2) the old Coordinator was well-qualified to enact the recommended curriculum changes; (3) although the College stated at the hearing that the old Coordinator could apply for the new position, that argument was disingenuous; and therefore, (4) the College failed to act in good faith in deciding to replace the old Coordinator. The College failed to articulate a legitimate and reasonable institutional reason for the challenged action that comports with the facts. This arbitrary and capricious action is inconsistent with the language of the collective bargaining agreement, and therefore, the arbitrator held that the old Coordinator must be reinstated to her former position.