Just Cause - The News Guild

The Facts

Management Says: “…protects bad actors and/or underperforming employees”—FALSE!

WE SAY: Just Cause fortifies editorial standards. It helps to set clear, consistent expectations for performance and conduct. Furthermore, it ensures that employees and employers alike are held to those expectations. Just Cause is a bulwark against actual threats to editorial standards, which include poor judgment by those in power and the pressure to appeal to the public, political, and/or corporate favor.

Management Says: “…bogs companies down with excessive arbitration”—FALSE!

WE SAY: Just Cause doesn’t prevent employers from disciplining or even dismissing employees based on performance or conduct. It simply requires employers to follow the steps of progressive discipline. Just Cause allows employers to handle cases of gross misconduct and threats to workplace safety with urgency. We also say that an at-will environment protects bad managers. Good leadership is consistent, transparent, and communicative. Just Cause ensures just that and that no one is disciplined or dismissed for an unfair reason, and that anyone subjected to discipline or dismissal is treated fairly throughout that process. But the Guild’s ultimate goal, to protect its members, relies on the health of the overall industry.

Management Says: “…undermines business and editorial decisions”—FALSE!

WE SAY: There are many ways to resolve a dispute about Just Cause through the grievance process without advancing to arbitration. Arbitration is a last resort. Of course, the easiest way for our bosses to steer clear of arbitration is by adhering to Just Cause and the steps of progressive discipline, which isn’t difficult—many employers in many industries, including ours, do it every day!

Management Says: “…can’t account for the ‘subjective’ nature of our work”—FALSE!

WE SAY: Just Cause doesn’t interfere with management’s ability to make business and editorial decisions—it simply holds management accountable for those decisions. All Just Cause means is that policies and directives need to be clearly communicated, as do suspected violations, and that managers need to hear an employee’s side before taking action. By making sure that workers’ voices are heard in the workplace, Just Cause provides an important check on power.

Management Says: Just Cause prevents management from using “subjectivity” as a disguise for unfairness.  

WE SAY: The Guild knows that the work of journalism isn’t always cut-and-dried, and that questions of taste and opinion do sometimes come into play—but even subjective standards must hold up under review. Employers should be able to articulate even subjective decisions when employees’ livelihoods are at stake. If an alleged problem is egregious enough to lose someone their job, management must explain the thinking that led to such extreme action and provide an opportunity to improve.