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Securitas Fires Guard Who Alleged Retaliation

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The Kresge Building at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Former Harvard School of Public Health security guard Joseph G. Bartuah — who alleged last week that Securitas, his employer, started a retaliatory investigation into him after he reported a supervisor’s behavior — received a letter of termination from Securitas Wednesday.

The letter, signed by Alonzo B. Herring, an area manager for Securitas North America, states that Bartuah engaged in “serious misconduct” while on duty at the Shattuck International House, a residential building at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It further states that the School of Public Health requested Bartauh's removal.

“The Senior Client of the Harvard Chan School requested your immediate removal from the International House,” Herring wrote in the letter, which was provided by Bartuah. “You were reported to frequently abandon the designated Security post located within the ground floor lobby.”

Bartuah said his union, 32BJ Service Employees International Union, has filed a grievance on his behalf.

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The letter claims that Bartuah’s behavior violated several company policies, including leaving his post without “proper relief,” falsifying company records, and engaging in “carelessness or negligence in the performance of an assigned duty,” as well as other violations.

Bartuah said the termination was “expected,” but he did not think it was warranted.

“The only charge I would agree with is that I was leaving my post without proper relief,” Bartuah said, but added that this is a “common practice for overnight workers.”

He alleged last week that managers opened the investigation into him leaving his desk only because he sent an email to his supervisors Feb. 5 stating that one of them made “unprofessional” remarks that damaged Bartuah’s reputation among his colleagues.

Three days later, on Feb. 8, Bartuah received a call from Herring telling him not to come to work. The formal termination letter arrived Wednesday.

The letter stated that Bartuah’s firing was a “Client Requested Removal,” in reference to Harvard, which contracts Securitas.

Bartuah, however, said that based on the “experience of co-workers that have gone through this,” he believes Securitas was behind the termination.

“Securitas will always say that the client requested that we should remove you and almost always there's no evidence of whether the client actually requested that,” Bartuah said.

Bartuah alleged that Securitas took advantage of a provision in the contract that allows the client to request employees’ removal without cause.

“In our union contract once the client says that you should be removed, you are to be removed,” Bartuah said. “They always stand by that to justify their decisions, so I kind of expected that the reason will go that way.”

Securitas’ Boston office did not respond to a request for comment.

“It is inappropriate for Securitas to comment on specific employment related matters and matters possibly to be addressed in the grievance process,” Herring, the Securitas area manager, wrote in an email.

The University declined to comment on whether it requested the removal.

“As a matter of practice, the School does not comment on personnel matters,” School of Public Health spokesperson Todd Datz wrote in an emailed statement.

As part of union grievance procedures, Bartuah and 32BJ SEIU representatives will meet with a Securitas human resources manager, according to Bartuah.

“Grievance arbitration procedures provide for certain preliminary intermediate steps where the parties, usually the union, will sit down with employer representatives,” William B. Gould IV, former Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, said in an interview. “They will try to resolve the matter themselves in some way. And if they're unable to resolve it, then and only then, would the matter be referred to arbitration.”

Unions usually have the discretion to invoke arbitration processes. The case’s merit and whether they could prevail before an arbitrator are the primary factors when unions decide whether to bring a grievance to an arbitration process, according to Gould.

32BJ SEIU spokesperson Amanda Torres Price referred to a previous statement about the case, and declined to comment on Bartuah’s individual case.

“We take allegations of unjust termination seriously and follow a strict protocol to process any grievance accordingly,” she wrote when Bartuah was first being investigated.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at ruoqi.zhang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.

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