Wednesday, January 4, 2006
DALLAS -- LaVay Jeffries, the DMV worker who was accused of racial profiling and fired last summer, was awarded umemployment and back benefits in October.
Administrative Law Judge Jonathan F. Micheletti said that because Jeffries was terminated for refusing to sign a last-chance agreement, not for misconduct, he qualified for unemployment benefits.
A last chance agreement would have required Jeffries to admit guilt and take a permanent demotion. He also would have not been allowed to return to the Dallas office.
After Jefferies refused to sign, the DMV offered him a second agreement in which he would have been allowed to return to his old job for one day and then step down for personal reasons.
He refused again, and was terminated.
In his decision, Judge Micheletti said:
"There is no evidence indicating that the employer (the DMV) could only institute the disciplinary action prescribed by the LCA (last-chance agreement) ... the employer could just as easily have issued a disciplinary action imposing a three-month pay cut and a final written warning."
He continues: "There is no evidence that the collective bargaining agreement (the contract between the union and the DMV) required the claimant's (Jefferies's) signature to impose the disciplinary action ...
"When an employer discharges an individual for violating an unreasonable expectation (signing the LCA), the discharge is not for misconduct under Employment department law ...
"The claimant is not subject to disqualification from benefits."
Jeffries is a retired military officer. He has said he could retire tomorrow and not face any financial hardship, but that he is fighting to clear his name of an accusation he says he is not guilty of.
"To us, an important piece of that decision is that an independent judge found that the agency was wrong in its termination of Mr. Jeffries," Cory McIntosh, statewide steward for the DMV Local 735, said.
"The judge's decision was big, because it reinforced that the DMV was wrong in their action..."
"They have alluded to a lot of stuff, but they haven't provided documentation for any of it," Jeffries said.
The DMV refused to comment on the case as it is pending arbitration.
"When we are in this area of arbitration we can't comment, especially when it could lead to lawsuits on either side," DMV Public Information Officer David House said.
Jeffries' Union, Local 735, plans to meet on Jan. 12 to decide if it will pursue further arbitration.
McIntosh said he is confident that the officers will decide to push ahead with arbitration. At that time, an arbitrator will be selected and the case will be placed on a docket. After that, it could be months before Jeffries has a final decision. In the meantime, he will continue to drive school busses and look for full-time employment.
"I guess I'm just to the point with the DMV that I just don't care. I'm going to continue to do what is right," Jeffries said.