The city of West Allis (Wisc.) is appealing an arbitrator’s order to rehire a dispatcher fired last year for posting on Facebook that she was addicted to drugs. The city fired Dana Kuchler, 45, after learning of the off-duty posting, but she filed a union grievance, and an arbitrator ruled the discipline warranted only a 30-day unpaid suspension. Kuchler, a 21-year veteran, testified that she’s never had a drug addiction and, in fact, tested negative for drugs. She also notes that she included the word “Ha” in the posting, a traditional indication that a statement is a joke. The arbitrator said that the city did not have any social networking regulations at the time that would have prohibited Kuchler from making Facebook remarks. But in its appeal of the arbitrator’s decision, the city says that, “Making stupid jokes on Facebook where the line between public and private communications is admittedly blurred, calls into question that good judgment and common sense of the grievant and her resulting ability to perform her job.” The city also explained, “This is a case where a Police and Fire dispatcher’s conduct—publicly posting her addiction to controlled substances and illegal drugs—mocks and is blatantly inconsistent with the mission of the Police Department that employs her—upholding the laws prohibiting the use and distribution of such substances.” Lastly, the city contends that Kuchler was at the last stage of a five-step progressive discipline process used with city employees, and termination was appropriate.E-mail this story
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