Seventeen-year UR employee Leslie McKnight said she was fired from her position as a Douglass Dining Hall cashier last month for a time clock mistake.
In April, McKnight came to work after being sick for the past week. McKnight said she ran into another Dining worker, who asked her about where she had been the past week. At the end of their conversation, she realized she had forgot to clock in.
She told her manager, who she said brought her a sheet for those who forget to clock in. A few hours later, she said, her manager ended up sending McKnight home as he noticed she was still sick.
The discrepancy from both sides involves the time McKnight arrived for her shift. Dining told McKnight it had eyewitness testimony of her in the parking lot at 6:36 a.m. — making it impossible for her to have been at her shift at 6:30 a.m. McKnight said that because she could not exactly remember the time she arrived, she put down her starting time — 6:30 a.m. — on the sheet her manager gave her.
“That day, I don’t know what time I got in there because I did not swipe in,” McKnight told the Campus Times, which received a tip about her firing from a concerned student. “I knew I left home in time to get to work on time. I know I didn’t realize I was late.”
According to McKnight, Dining fired her because management believed she lied about forgetting to clock in so she would not have on her record that she was late.
Dining Services declined to speak to the Campus Times about McKnight’s case because of confidentiality policies.
Dining Services employees are subject to a “five and 90” attendance policy. According to Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf, “in an effort to provide clear guidelines for staff in the department with regard to absenteeism and to balance an employee’s paid leave protection against the University’s fundamental right to a reasonable standard of attendance, Campus Dining Services’ attendance policy stipulates that five unscheduled absences in a rolling 90-day period is considered excessive.”
McKnight said that being fired for allegedly being six minutes late does not outweigh her 17 years of service to UR, which she said lacks serious conduct issues.
“I’m always where I am supposed to be,” McKnight said. “If I’m not at that register, either I’m on break or I’m in the bathroom, but I’ll be right back. Other than that, I’m at that register with a smile.”
McKnight added that the role she plays in the community with students should have been taken into account as well. Students who know her were disappointed upon hearing the news of McKnight’s firing.
“I usually go there every morning and talk to her for a good 20 to 30 minutes some days before I grab my breakfast,” said senior Robert James, who has known McKnight since his first year. “She was a part of my morning routine and somebody I really enjoyed seeing every day, probably the best part. She’d give me an inspirational message for the day, she’s always telling me to get my homework done. She really seemed like an aunt away from home that I had there I could connect with and somebody that would keep me on the right path.”
McKnight said she is now without a means of living and without medical benefits to help with her health complications.
Before working in Dining for about 10 years, McKnight was a University shuttle bus driver. When she moved to Dining, she said, her contract carried the same entitlements she had as a driver – including a guaranteed 40-hour work week and unemployment compensation for the hours she could not work in the summer when the dining halls operate on a reduced schedule.
McKnight said someone in management didn’t like her contract and wanted it changed.
She said that six months ago, she started to be called into an office every two-to-three weeks, which had never happened before. McKnight said that some of these disciplinary visits were frivolous, including one where management attempted to discipline her for being late due to her inability to access an elevator, which caused her tardiness.
When asked if she would come back if offered her job again, McKnight gladly agreed.
“I love my job,” McKnight said. “I enjoyed what I did. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been there. That’s been a part of my life. I’m just praying that it goes in my favor now and my personality and record speaks for me.”
Currently, she is fighting the matter with her union representative.
Correction (5/16/18): The print version of this article said McKnight was fired in May. Her actual firing occurred in April. The correct month has been updated in this version.