Local 21 Wins Justice For Alameda County Social Services Member

Sharon Stewart is a Supervising Eligibility Technician with the Welfare to Work Program at Alameda County Social Services. She's been with the County for nine years and has always demonstrated exemplary performance. She loves her job and gets along well with her colleagues.

Stewart was dealing with an angry client after being called for assistance by her subordinate. Her subordinate had told the client that she did not qualify for a particular benefit, when the client became agitated. After Stewart intervened and reiterated the information provided to the client, the woman proceeded to spit on Stewart and punch her in the face. Stewart instructed her subordinate to trigger the panic button to summon the Deputy Sherriff, but he couldn't find it. No Deputies ever arrived and she was left to handle the violent situation by herself. She then ushered the client out of the office to protect her fellow co-workers and clients. After this, she was taken to Kaiser by a colleague to evaluate her injuries. 

Despite the ordeal Stewart went through, her employer tried to demote and discipline her for unprofessional conduct, claiming that she unnecessarily intervened and escalated the situation. At the Skelly hearing, Local 21 Representatives voiced our concern and confusion over what this discipline was all about; The victim was being blamed and should not be demoted! The Skelly officer overturned the discipline and reduced it to a written warning.

However, the Agency Director denied the Skelly Officer’s determination and upheld the demotion. To make matters worse, when we appealed the matter, the Administrative Law Judge, paid solely by the County, upheld the Agency’s position and the demotion.

Local 21 continued to pursue the issue and objected to the Judge’s decision before the Civil Service Commission, testifying that it was not a balanced and neutral process and that the Judge mischaracterized much of the witness’ testimony. The punishment in no way fit the crime. After closed session, the Commission came back with a vote of 5-0 that they agreed with us. The demotion was overturned and the discipline was reduced to a written warning! This was a huge win for us, but more importantly for Stewart, who was finally vindicated and got the justice she deserved.