“I could not be more pleased with my experience working with CSLEA and Kasey Clark. Kasey was extremely timely and straight forward with not only myself but my department. I felt as though CSLEA and Kasey had my best interest in mind the entire time through my grievance. My experience has shown me just how important it is to be a full CSLEA member.” – CSLEA Member Robert Kujawa
SACRAMENTO - Robert Kujawa has been employed as an Investigator for the Department of Social Services (DSS) since 2013 and serves as a director on the CSLEA affiliate California Association of Fraud Investigators (CAFI) board. Kujawa's union-related capacity is well-known amongst his supervisors and managers and he has from time to time brought issues concerning CSLEA bargaining unit employees to the attention of management for redress.
On October 19, 2021, Kujawa put in a request for a voluntary geographic transfer from the DSS office in Orange County to its office in Riverside. It was his intention to move his family to the Riverside area and he has been actively seeking and putting offers in on available homes in Riverside. A few days after submitting his request, he was notified that he would be required to submit an application for transfer, which he did.
On December 30, 2021, Kujawa received an email from DSS Assistant Chief Dave Arvidson advising that he had been slotted for the vacant position in Riverside and Arvidson had confirmed the transfer with the DSS Chief. However, the department wanted to delay the transfer and phase him in to working Riverside cases. On March 1, 2022, Kujawa was notified by his immediate supervisor that DSS Labor Relations had determined he was ineligible for transfer because he failed to submit a timely application during the eligibility period and had not yet relocated his residence. Kujawa then contacted CSLEA for assistance.
On March 1, 2022, Kujawa's representative CSLEA Chief Counsel Kasey Clark emailed DSS Labor Relations and requested that their opinion be reevaluated as the department was well aware of Kujawa's application and that relocation prior to the grant of a geographic transfer was not required by the collective bargaining agreement. On March 10, 2022, DSS Labor Relations replied to the inquiry and reiterated the transfer was being denied based on Kujawa's failure to timely submit a request during the available window periods to do so. The reply did not address the requirement that Kujawa was required to relocate prior to being eligible for transfer. On March 10, 2022, Kujawa was notified via email from his supervisor that he was being placed on a formal bi-weekly case review which Kujawa had never been subject to prior to contesting the recission of his transfer request.
On March 10, 2022, CSLEA filed a grievance with DSS Labor Relations regarding the denial of transfer. Although such denials are not generally subject to the grievance procedure, CSLEA alleged that the denial of transfer and the initiation of periodic case reviews based on its timing constituted reprisal for Kujawa's union activities which is grievable under the CSLEA contract. Subsequent to the filing of the grievance, CSLEA learned that DSS was attempting to expedite the filling of two vacancies in the Riverside office. CSLEA notified a supervisor in the Southern office that candidates who might be interested in filling the positions should be informed that they might be displaced should CSLEA prevail on the grievance. And though DSS had yet to respond to the grievance, in the interest of safeguarding Kujawa's transfer opportunity, Clark notified CalHR of what was transpiring. CalHR then contacted DSS and requested justification for the denial.
In order to cure the alleged deficiency relative to the timing of the prior application, Kujawa was required to re-submit. On June 6, he was notified that the transfer had been approved.
"Although there is always the possibility that CSLEA representatives may become targets by some managers who view them as adversaries," said Clark. "It is important for our representatives to feel protected and know that CSLEA will do everything in its power to protect them from retaliation."