Yale Security employee Joy McAllister was babysitting her infant nephews on the morning of Oct. 31 when her boss called and ordered her to report for an unscheduled shift that night. Unable to find a replacement sitter in the five hours that remained, McAllister informed her boss that her family commitments would prevent her from taking the shift.
Three weeks later, the University fired McAllister with no prior warning.
McAllister is one of three Yale Security employees that has been fired since early November, calling into question Yale’s relationship with the newly formed, independent union that represents Yale Security employees. On Oct. 17, Yale Security employees voted to leave the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, a large union with a national span, to form the Yale University Security Officers Association. The new union is only open to Yale Security employees.
In addition to McAllister, Yale has also terminated Malu Mulumba and Darrell Turner for reasons many have called unjust.
Each of the three terminations was followed by individual letters, which were obtained by the News, written by attorney Thomas Horgan and sent to the University. Horgan is an attorney at Hanley Law Offices, which first supported efforts to form the new union and now represents YUSOA. Dwayne Goldman, a union representative at the firm, said the three letters went unanswered by Yale’s Office of Human Resources.
“As far as we’re concerned, they were excessive, unfair and unjust,” Goldman said of the terminations. “We believe it’s an abuse of power and authority.”
Goldman explained that the three terminations, which he said were not preceded by communication from the University, violated employee contracts and Yale Security protocol. All three were probationary employees, meaning the University was free to discipline them, up to and including termination, for any reason. However, employees can only be terminated after repeated offenses, Goldman said, which was not the case in any of the three instances.
Deputy University Press Secretary Karen Peart said the University could not discuss personnel matters regarding specific individuals.
“The employment terms and conditions of the former contract continue to apply to personnel matters within this unit, until the University and the YUSOA complete negotiations for a new agreement,” Peart said in an email to the News. “We remain committed to honoring the terms and conditions of the former agreement, and the University has fully complied with them.”
Because Mulumba, McAllister and Turner were all probationary employees, Horgan said no formal grievance can be filed on the their behalf, but that “just because they’re probationary employees doesn’t mean that their treatment was fair practice.”
It remains unclear how the three former employees will next choose to take action. However, if it becomes evident that the terminations were connected to the formation of the YUSOA, Goldman said a complaint could be filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Mulumba, who was the first employee to be terminated, on Nov. 3, was fired because of failure “to demonstrate [her] ability to ride a bicycle for an extended period of time as outlined in the job posting,” according to her termination letter from Daniel Killen, the director of security officer operations.
However, according to Horgan’s letter, the two employees assigned to assess Mulumba’s ability to ride a bike were not certified bike instructors themselves, suggesting that they could not fairly review her bike-riding skills. Goldman added that the University should have provided proper training before suddenly informing her of her termination.
The subsequent terminations of McAllister and Turner were both due to the officers’ unavailability to take a shift on Halloween night. McAllister received her termination letter on Nov. 18, and Turner received his on Nov. 22.
When McAllister was ordered to come to work on her scheduled day off, she made numerous phone calls in an attempt to arrange childcare for her young nephews, eventually causing her sister to leave her planned anniversary trip, Horgan’s second letter said. Despite her sister’s early return, McAllister was unable to arrive on time to her 4:00 p.m. shift, though she informed her boss that she would be willing to report to duty as soon as her sister arrived.
The letter further stated that McAllister’s boss understood her predicament but that she could still be disciplined for failing to report to duty.
According to the “Order In” policy contained in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, “ordering-in an employee is the least desirable way to fill an assignment. However, the department also recognizes that once the need is established, the assignment will be filled.”
Horgan’s letter states that McAllister never refused to report for duty, but rather took extra measures to ensure she could arrive at the shift as quickly as possible. Prior to the night of Oct. 31, McAllister had never refused or failed to report to duty for any of her regularly scheduled or ordered-in shifts, nor was she ever disciplined by the University.
McAllister said the University told her she had violated the order-in policy, and that as a probationary employee, this violation justified her termination. McAllister said while her contract states the University can fire employees after repeated offenses, Oct. 31 marked her first offense.
“You’re just setting up people to fail,” McAllister said of the way in which she and the two others were terminated. “Maybe they’re looking for a way to fire people.”
In the three-week interval, no one informed McAllister that there was a possibility that she might be fired, adding that she could have been looking for another job during that time.
McAllister said that the transition between unions makes firing employees easier for the University. In the SPFPA, employees could address their problems through an elected chief steward, who would facilitate a discussion between the employee and management. But McAllister said the YUSOA will not vote for officers until Dec. 6, so employees can only talk to Horgan, the lawyer representing their union.
Turner said that like McAllister, he was unaware that failing to report to an order-in shift could result in termination.
Turner previously worked 16 hours per week — eight hours on Saturday, eight hours on Sunday — for Yale Security while also holding a full-time job elsewhere. On Oct. 31, which was a Friday, Turner was also ordered in to work while at his other job, as a school security officer for the City of New Haven. Because he was unable to report to his shift, Turner said, his employment was terminated three weeks later. Turner said the University was aware of his additional occupation.
Turner said that had never received a copy of the contract that said he was required to adhere to a call-in policy, adding that he was never able to talk to a supervisor about his termination.
He added that he returned to work at the University for two more weekends before he received his termination letter.
“For one single incident he was terminated,” Goldman said. “There was no refusal on his part, there was no discussion, no counseling, no training, just a knee-jerk decision.”