Guild, Reuters settle remaining PIP disputes


The Guild and Thomson Reuters management last week settled all of their remaining PIP-related disciplinary disputes, bringing to a close, at least for now, a year-long saga that touched the lives and careers of 33 journalists, and unsettled hundreds more.

The fight over performance improvement plans led to the departure of Supreme Court reporter Jim Vicini and Washington senior economics correspondent Glenn Somerville, among others.

Under the agreement, verbal warnings that were given in 2012 to 15 journalists immediately before they received PIPs (performance improvement plans), will expire on their anniversaries this year if no further discipline is issued to them during the one-year period. Once expired, a verbal warning cannot be used as basis for a more severe reprimand, like a written warning, in the step-by-step path to termination known as progressive discipline.

The agreement, reached on Valentine’s Day as an arbitrator was about to hear the first of the 15 cases, says that an employee whose verbal warning expires may “without consequence, state that he or she has not received a verbal warning.” Normally, verbal warnings never expire under company policy, although their usefulness as a management stepping stone to more severe discipline diminishes greatly after a year. Under company policy, no records of verbal warnings are kept in personnel files, although employees’ supervisors normally keep their own records.

If any of the 15 journalists receive additional discipline (which would have to be based on something other than failing to meet PIP or appraisal goals) within the one-year period, the original verbal warning would remain in place, but the Guild would be free to challenge it along with the additional discipline.

“We think this settlement will help employees and their supervisors put this episode behind them without in any way impeding the Guild’s ability to defend its members in case things don’t turn out the way we hope,” said New York Guild Secretary-Treasurer Peter Szekely.

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