Welcome; Reasonable Apprehension of Bias

Welcome to the fall term!

The fall term brings with it committee work encompassing all sorts of personnel processes. These include RTP, appointments, and reappointments.  In addition to conflict of interest, the collective agreement now articulates another situation that must be taken into account when making decisions, and that is reasonable apprehension of bias (Article 18.3). It is described this way:

[A] reasonable apprehension of bias arises when a reasonable person, informed of interactions between a Committee member and a Member who is or will be the subject of the Committee’s deliberations or recommendations, would consider it likely that the Committee member would not be able to decide the matter impartially because of either a positive or negative bias.

It is not always easy to identify such a situation, but it is important to do so for fairness to all. The decision about what to do in such a situation does not rest with the person identifying it, so do not feel that you bear the burden if you happen to be a messenger. The parties, union and employer, regularly mull over difficult situations to come up with a mutually agreeable solution should they not be easily resolvable within the academic unit’s own governance policies and procedures.

While Articles 25, 30, 31, and 41 are named in this new provision, reasonable apprehension of bias could also call into question decisions made for Article 32 (Adjunct reappointment and promotion). It is important that academic units regularly review their local constitutions and other governing policies and procedures to make sure that they do not foster unfairness in decision making of any sort. Doing so gives greater confidence that decisions that engage the CA will also be fairly made.

This legal standard is not new, we have always looked out for situations where it might exist, but now it has finally been enshrined in the CA so that everyone is aware of it. While the CA mentions it in only a few circumstances, it can be applied more broadly to decision making.

Remember that the potential bias could be either positive or negative; both situations foster unfairness. The union and employer cannot see everything that goes on at the local level, so we depend on you to let us know if you think something seems not quite right.

Grievance work makes up a large chunk of what your union does for you. The purpose of the Grievance Corner is to make you aware of processes, issues, trends, and anything else that might be helpful or interesting. To that end, please feel free to send in topic ideas and feedback. Remember that the grievance process is a confidential one, so that the content of the Corner will have to be limited in order to take that into account. You will find archived Corners and other grievance information on the QUFA website at http://qufa.ca/members/grievance/ .

Ramneek Pooni can be reached at poonir@queensu.ca.