If Judge Prosser Was A Groundskeeper He Would Have Been Fired by Now
By Ron Blascoe
A long-time steward with AFT 4848 noted recently that if David Prosser was a represented state employee, rather than a member of the State Supreme Court, he would have been fired by now.
Here’s some of what we know about his behavior on the job. In February 2010, Prosser called a co-worker, Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a “b____” and threatened to “destroy” her. According to other co-workers, Prosser has a history of similar angry outbursts.
Then, on June 13, 2011, Prosser actually physically attacked another co-worker, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. As one witness reported, Prosser grabbed Bradley around the neck in a “choke-hold” during a heated debate over Governor Walker’s bill to kill collective bargaining for public employees.
Most employers, and certainly all public agencies, have written work rules against harassing, intimidating or threatening co-workers. And virtually all employers these days have a “zero tolerance policy” against violence in the workplace.
If David Prosser had been, say, a Groundskeeper employee of the Department of Administration, rather than a Supreme Court Justice, here’s what would have happened.
Walk to the Door
When it was first reported to his supervisor that he’d called a co-worker a “b----” and threatened to “destroy” her, the Personnel Department would have called in the Capitol Police and Prosser would have been escorted by an armed guard to the door. His state identification badge would have been confiscated and he would have been ordered to stay away from his place of employment until further notice.
Then he would have been handed a letter stating that he was being placed on “administrative leave” until an investigation could be completed, and that he would have to remain available for phone contact during regular work hours. As part of the investigation, the employer would likely require Prosser to undergo an “Independent Medical Examination” (IME) with a psychologist of their choosing. If the employee failed to comply with the IME, or any of the other requirements of the administrative leave, he would be fired on the spot.
The IME would report to the employer whether the employee was a threat to himself or to co-workers and whether he could safely return to work. If the IME found that Prosser had just flown off the handle but was no real threat, he would be allowed to return to work. But he would most likely receive a written reprimand for his language and threat against a co-worker and at least a two-week suspension without pay. The record of the incident would remain in his personnel file for two years and could be used to justify more serious discipline, up to and including termination, for any subsequent occurrence.
If Groundskeeper Prosser had then physically attacked a co-worker only 16 months later, he would again have been escorted to the door by the Capitol Police. But this time there would be no “administrative leave” and no IME. For a second offense within two years, and for physically attacking a co-worker, he would have been handed a notice of termination.
If the now-unemployed Prosser had the nerve to apply for unemployment compensation, his application would be turned down because all evidence indicates that the firing was for just cause.
This is precisely what happens to the “average Joe” employee when they engage in the type of behavior that Prosser engaged in over the past two years. And there’s little the union could have done to save the employee’s job under these circumstances. If you don’t believe it, ask any steward.
If this story needed more irony, the reason why employers are so aggressive in investigating potential work-place violence, and so vehement in their “zero tolerance” policy is that courts have ruled that employers are civilly liable in cases where they knowingly allowed violence to occur in a worksite. If even rumor of potential employee-on-employee violence comes to an employer’s attention and they fail to act, and someone is eventually hurt, the employer can be sued by the victim.
But, of course, when you live up in the castle, you don’t have to play by the same rules as the peasants.