Employee Rights and Justice in the Employment Relationship--A Competitiveness Perspective.

Author:McCabe, Douglas M.


The word "internal" indicates that the persons who are the members of the tribunal are on the company's payroll. While there are numerous variations among companies in the composition of their internal tribunals, the favored type appears to be a tribunal whose members include both management personnel and one or more nonsupervisory employees. The provision for one or more nonsupervisory employees in a tribunal which has the function of rendering a decision regarding an employee's grievance against management, has its roots in political philosophy. In the Middle Ages one of the rights that the common people developed for themselves was that, in criminal court cases, they should have decisions regarding their guilt or innocence rendered by a group of persons chosen from among their own kind, instead of such decisions being the prerogative of government officials. The underlying philosophy was that justice required that the decisions regarding defendants be rendered by their "peers," that is, their equals in the sociopolitical system. That is the origin of today's jury system in criminal cases.

This concept of trial by one's peers has been accorded at least token acceptance by the managements of those companies that provide internal tribunals for the settlement of the grievances of nonunion employees. By token acceptance is meant that, although the general practice is for a majority of the members of an internal tribunal to be management personnel, it is also a common practice for one or more nonsupervisory employees to be members.

Unquestionably, the employee with a grievance feels more comfortable if the internal tribunal before which he appears contains one or more of his peers. On the other hand, a cynic may suggest that the presence of peers in a tribunal in which management holds majority control is merely a psychological gimmick intended to lull the grievant into a false sense of security. Such a cynic is unjustly accusing the management members of an internal tribunal of indifference to the demands of justice in rendering their decisions.

Contrariwise, a cynic may suggest that the peers in an internal tribunal will invariably vote in favor of their fellow nonsupervisory employee, but such a cynic is unjustly maligning the integrity of the peers. An anecdote is appropriate here regarding peers in a tribunal of any kind. During World War II, a friend of mine was the president of a courts-martial board at an Army Air Force base. The members of the board were all commissioned officers. On one occasion my friend was discussing the Army's judicial system with a few enlisted men, and he asked them a question which had been puzzling him: "If you were to be tried by a courts-martial board, would you want its members to be officers or enlisted men?" The answer was that officers would be preferable to the enlisted men's peers. My friend...

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