When Victor Kohutka got his dismissal notice in late June, he was, to say the least, a little surprised.
The superintendent at 18-20 Ware St. learned in a letter that he had lost his job for, among other offenses, "intoxication"--a charge he was never given a chance to rebut and a charge that most residents of his building told Harvard Real Estate (HRE) officials was unfounded.
Because of the harsh wording of the termination letter, which charged Kohutka with "poor judgment and inexcusable behavior" (residential property manager Kenneth Daly later said he had broken a "moral code"), Kohutka was unable to get a new job. Even the unemployment office told him that it was his "own fault" he had been fired and that he would have to wait six weeks for his first check.
So Kohutka fought back, filing a grievance. Combined with the threat of a suit, a warning from tenants that they would stage a rent strike, and increasing public attention to the case, Kohutka was able to win severance pay and other benefits, along with a recommendation from the University good enough that he soon found another job.
"I think some things might have been handled differently than they were," Sally Zeckhauser, president of HRE, said after the dispute had been settled.
Across the river, Benjamin Gladney, the popular Medical School media technician who found out in May he would be replaced by an automatic system in May, turned off his projector for good this summer.
After District 65 of the United Auto Workers championed Gladney's cause--threatening to file suit with the National Labor Relations Board--the 55-year-old projectionist quietly assumed a new post in the Med School's mailroom.
And when Willard M. Chandler, a staff assistant in the Office of Fiscal Services, wore shorts to work in the heat of the summer, his supervisors hastily convened and deemed such attire "improper."
Shorts, Chandler was told, are inappropriate because his office "deals with the public." He wore long pants for the rest of the summer.