Due Process

This past February, the always excellent This American Life radio program (heard on your local NPR radio station) aired an episode entitled “Human Resources”. Among a few other interesting stories in that week’s, they had a piece concerning the NYC Department of Education’s Teacher Administrative Reassignment Centers (often referred to as the “Rubber Rooms”).

To provide some brief background, the NYC Department of Education currently has program where teachers who are under investigation for a work-related infraction or a performance issue are placed in a probationary status (allegedly often without a specific charge provided) and reassigned from their classroom duties (with full pay) to a local Administrative Reassignment Center. They must report each day to the “Rubber Room” and are given nothing to do but sit and wait until the NYC DOE completes the disposition of their case. This process can take months or even years.

An excessive bureaucracy and inefficient process of rectifying these cases, a strong union that makes it difficult for the DOE to remove bad (or even dangerous teachers), and even a convenient method of keeping “whistleblowers” or the more vocal critics of a particular policy or school administration at bay have all been alleged as reasons for why this practice currently exists.

How does this topic relate to employee engagement? To underline the fundamental importance of employers maintaining a timely and fair process when resolving employee-related performance issues. Imagine working in an organization where, after finding yourself involved in some kind of workplace incident (a heated altercation with your boss, for example), you were, perhaps without the benefit of any indication of what you were being accused of, instructed to sit in a particular conference room each day (with pay) indefinitely until the matter could be further investigate and resolved. The appearance of guilt prior to any formal charge or conclusive investigation coupled with the intense boredom of being in a daily state of administrative “limbo” certainly represents, at the very least, an unhealthy and unfair process.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, there are a number of interesting articles available on the subject including “Class Dismissed” by Mara Altman (found in the April 17th 2007 issue of the Village Voice and “Where Teachers Sit, Awaiting Their Fates” by Samuel G. Freedman in the October 10th 2007 issue of the New York Times). In addition, a documentary film on the topic is currently being developed by Five Borough Productions and some clips of their work in progress can be found at their website here.

Comments?

Comments are closed.