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When to File a Grievance

November 8, 2012

'I should have followed my own advice'

By Jim Owen, RN Tarzana 121RN Chapter President

At least several times a week, a 121RN member talks to me about issues involving staffing, improper call-off, scheduling, or any number of other issues. After listening to their issue, if it is a violation of our contract, my usual response is: One, have you talked to your manager? Two, are you ready to file a grievance in writing?

I recently had to apply for a Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA) because my son was injured.

I followed all the rules and contacted Sedgwick, the LOA gatekeeper for Providence. I was informed by a pleasant woman on the phone that it would be approved and that I would be paid a combination of my ESL accrual and State Disability in order to equal my normal salary. I was able to focus on caring for my son, since I believed I would be paid as usual. Boy was I wrong.

The first pay period I was paid a proper blend of my FMLA State Disability and PTO. So far, so good. For the second pay period, I was paid from my ESL, but paid only 12 hours by State Disability. This amount was less than I would normally take home, but I figured this must be how it’s calculated. For the third pay period, I received nothing from my ESL account. Was this an easy-to-correct oversight?

I spent an hour and a half on the phone with Sedgwick, Tarzana payroll and HR, during which time all three said it was one of the others restricting the payment of my ESL.

Finally it was explained that when you are on FMLA, you can only use HALF of the ESL you accrue in one year to care for a family member. Wow, half of 44.40 hours is 22.2. That left me with no pay from the hospital after my third week off. Who needs to pay bills, right?

I am usually good at finding Providence policies as we use them frequently in our negotiations. It took me almost an hour to find this one buried in the policies. None of the Sedgwick paperwork showed this.

But wait, there’s more. My PTO balance did not increase for the three pay periods because we do not accrue PTO while on a leave.

However, I noticed that my pay stub covering the first pay period after I returned to work did not reflect the correct PTO accrual. I talked to my manager who looked at my pay stub and verified that PTO was not accrued correctly.

I called and explained the missing PTO to Tarzana payroll. I guess talking with patients coming out of anesthesia is simple compared to talking to Tarzana payroll. Over the course of our correspondence, she said that I was right but she would not correct my PTO balance. When I told my tale to Judith Serlin, Tarzana’s 121RN Union Rep, she asked very simply, “Why didn’t you just have me file a grievance?” The next day I emailed the Tarzana payroll person, stating, “I give up, you and I are not communicating. I am just going to file a grievance through the Union, something I try to avoid.”

Guess what happened next? The Tarzana payroll supervisor contacted me and within two days the issue was resolved and my PTO was credited properly. I might now be able to decrease my blood pressure RX dosage.

The next time you run into an issue that you haven’t been able to resolve, talk to a Steward or our 121RN Rep Judith Serlin about filing a grievance. I promise I will take my own advice next time.

RN & Professional Bargaining Team nominations

Our Contract expires July 1, 2013, which means that bargaining preparation starts now.  Our Tarzana 121RN Chapter Executive Board members Jim Owen (PACU), Sandra Thompson (ER) and Karen Pelone (Labor and Delivery) will serve as Bargaining Team members, and we have two open positions. So that the team represents as many areas of the hospital as possible, we encourage RNs from Critical Care and Medical-Surgical, as well as Professionals (non-nursing) to join the team.

Those selected for our 121RN Bargaining Team must be current on all Union dues and have been a full voting member of 121 RN for at least one year. All members nominated will be considered.