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Union sues Clark County for not reinstating worker to child abuse hotline job

Clark County has failed to abide by an arbitrator’s decision ordering it to reinstate a fired employee to his job handling calls on the county’s child abuse hotline, court records show.

The employee, Jadon Davis, was fired in December 2012 after he took a call from a school employee at Roundy Elementary School reporting concerns about the well-being of a 7-year-old boy, who had scars and showed signs of trouble walking. The day after the call came in, the boy, Roderick “RJ” Arrington Jr., was in a coma in the hospital, covered in bruises, and then died.

The Service Employees Local 1107 is suing the county in District Court, alleging that it hasn’t abided by an arbitrator’s decision in October 2013 that Davis get his job back as a specialist on the hotline with back pay. Instead, the county tried to give Davis a different job at the agency’s visitation center, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to reinstate Davis to his job on the hotline, with back pay and benefits accruing for the employee until the county complies.

Department of Family Services spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan declined to comment on the lawsuit, as it’s pending litigation. In its initial response in court, the county denied that it failed to comply with the arbitrator’s award, but offered no elaboration to back up its position. Court documents don’t say if the salary for the other position at the visitation center is different.

Court records show the county and the union had entered into binding arbitration to resolve the situation after Davis contested his termination. The arbitrator’s Oct. 15 award ordered the county to reinstate Davis to his job on the hotline within 30 days.

The case came from a call that Davis took on the hotline in November 2012. A day after the call came in, the boy was rushed to the hospital unconscious and died of injuries. According to police reports, the boy was beaten with a belt on the buttocks by his stepafter and mother after he had returned home from school on the same day the employee called the hotline.

The boy’s stepfather and mother, Markiece Palmer and Dina Palmer, face murder and child abuse charges in connection with the case.

Davis, who took the call, had assigned the call as a Priority 2 which requires a response from Clark County Child Protective Services within 24 hours. The other options would have been assigning the call as a Priority 3, which would have given the agency a longer deadline of 72 hours instead, or assigning the call as a Priority 1. As highest priority, that would have required a response within three hours of the call.

The county terminated Davis, an employee since 2008, on the grounds that he should have assigned the call as Priority 1.

However, the arbitrator found that the county’s policy with three priorities for hotline calls had a “yawning gap” that results in calls being coded for a 24-hour response if they don’t fit either extreme of Priority 1 or Priority 3.

The arbitrator also found that Davis acted reasonably with the information he had available. Arbitration records show Davis had asked the school employee on the phone to check the boy for existing injuries, but the caller declined. With the boy’s lack of visible, present injuries and only scarring, the call was assigned a Priority 2, records show.

The Department of Family Services is reviewing and revising its hotline policy, though county officials said the review is routine and not related to this case.

The same hotline policy that the arbitrator questioned was recently pulled from the county’s Department of Family Services website. It’s still in effect for the time being.

When the new policy is completed, it will be posted on the department’s website, Jourdan said in an email.

Clark County School District is also working on revisions to its child abuse reporting policies, though officials have said it’s not in reaction to this situation. The proposed rules would require school employees to tell the school principal and a counselor and nurse, if they are on site. Current policies already require school employees to call the child abuse hotline.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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