At a “standup” meeting in Food and Nutrition on Thursday, Jan. 5, the supervisor who pushed Local 328 member John Kusluch toward a wall and put his finger in John’s face apologized to the workers present. (John was not in attendance at the meeting.) The supervisor told the workers that John was okay with the outcome and that, earlier, John had shook his hand and accepted his apology.
After John’s shift ended on Thursday, we asked him about that.
John said that the supervisor and the supervisor’s manager had met with him earlier in the day. “You could tell he was scared for his job, and it felt like he was being told to apologize.”
“He personally apologized and acknowledged that he wouldn’t want to be treated that way.” John continued, “Apology is the first step, but more corrective action needs to be taken.”
At this time John and the supervisor have only minimal contact, as their shifts overlap by just one hour.
OHSU has said that the supervisor did not “push” John and has characterized the supervisor’s actions as “placing his hands on [John’s] shoulders and turned him 90 degrees.” John disputes this, saying that while he was never off balance or physically touching the wall, it’s because the supervisor had his hands on John’s shoulders and moved him enough to overcome John’s initial resistance. John did not offer resistance because he “didn’t want to escalate things more.”
This raises an interesting question. If OHSU says the supervisor is not guilty of “pushing” because there was no resistance, what would have been the outcome if John had resisted?
Is it OHSU’s expectation that employees must resist physical contact — must escalate an encounter in order to justify disciplinary action against the aggressor? Is this the standard that OHSU would also apply in a sexual harassment case? That when an employee doesn’t resist, it mitigates the offense?
John is aware that our union has filed a grievance on the matter. The remedy our union is seeking in the grievance is that the supervisor no longer be allowed to work with John and that the supervisor take anger-management classes provided by the OHSU/AFSCME Career and Workplace Enhancement Center. John said that, as far as he knows, the CWE classes are voluntary and not mandated for supervisors.
John added, “There’s a code of conduct; you can’t just pick and choose which rules to follow. I think the reaction should be fair to what a normal employee would get. I told [the manager] that, and she said that even though this was an egregious act, she doesn’t see it as anything that would be treated differently between employees and supervisors.”
“Everyone was shocked that it happened. One of the supervisors that witnessed said it wasn’t appropriate. Coworkers are afraid of what he is going to do to them. People say things like ‘How is this okay? How can they allow this to happen?’ My coworkers think it’s ridiculous that he got away with it. It’s almost a running joke that you can do anything you want in the kitchen if you say you’re sorry afterwards”
“An apology is nice, but I think he still should be let go. If I had done that to him I wouldn’t have lasted [another] day on the job.”
“I’m really not feeling well today, but since I’ve already used two days of sick leave, I could be disciplined or fired for calling in sick. So I’m here, not feeling well, working in the kitchen.”
“I think what he did is worse than me calling in sick.”