“A Cautionary Tale: The Aronow Case”
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights Rules Against UConn Health
Sometimes, the wheels of justice turn slowly. On February 14, 2018, after a seven-year battle, the State of Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ruled in favor of Dr. Michael Aronow in his whistleblower complaint against the http://uchc-aaup.org/chro-decision-aronow_ocr/ University of Connecticut Health Center (UCH).
In September of 2011, Dr. Aronow filed a grievance with the Health Center Appeals Committee (HCAC). The state tribunal agreed that, subsequent to his filing of that appeal, Dr. Aronow was subjected to several retaliatory actions by UCH that resulted in damage to his career and his finances. Those actions also resulted in disruption to the care of patients. The final decision rendered by the tribunal can be found here. It documents instances in which UCH treated Dr. Aronow prejudicially, kept crucial information hidden from him, ignored the orders of the tribunal, and undermined the clear language of the by-laws and grievance process by, among other actions, conducting an extra-judicial investigation, arranging ex-parte meetings, and failing to provide a neutral liaison to Dr. Aronow throughout the proceedings.
The state tribunal concluded that UCH “showed resentment, animosity, and contempt” for Dr. Aronow’s grievance while UCH “harbored impermissible retaliatory animus” toward him. This stemmed from what the tribunal characterized as, “an air of retaliatory animus that permeated the [Health Center’s] corridors.” Further, they found that the actions of UCH “were against their own (hence the taxpayers [sic]) financial interest, and against past practices and policies.”
An understanding of what occurred provides an extremely powerful argument for the necessity of union representation. It demonstrates, unfortunately, that even when bylaws, policies, and procedures are in place and codified, adherence to them is not a foregone conclusion, much less guaranteed. The good news is that, as a faculty member, you need not “go it alone.”
Our union contract provides for ‘just cause’ in discipline and a grievance and arbitration process. In cases involving discipline and contract violations, faculty can elect a route of due process rather than utilizing internal UCH processes (e.g., the Health Center Appeals Committee). The external grievance and arbitration process involves the assignment of a neutral third party to rule in cases of discipline or contract violations. Especially in light of the case discussed above, we urge members to consider seriously the contractual grievance and arbitration process vs internal UCH processes whenever a choice is possible. At minimum, we urge you to contact the union to discuss your options. Remember, the UCHC-AAUP is here to support you and your interests and to ensure that all faculty receive a fair shake. Do not hesitate to contact us for representation and assistance concerning UCH administrative matters.