NEWS- Rejected suitor: Info-seeking UVA employee reassigned
The UVA employee who tried to get the university to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request found out last week in a mass email that his job had been eliminated.
"A blind man can see this is retaliation," says Will Shaw, the former associate director in facilities management with the UVA Health System who recently filed a grievance alleging racial and gender bias. "I'm going from managing tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of employees to nothing."
Shaw says he found out about his new position March 19 in an email to 800 people from chief facilities officer Don Sundgren. Shaw's reassignment is simply part of the second phase of a major reorganization in facilities management, according to UVA spokeswoman Carol Wood.
"These changes are necessary to meet the changing needs of the university community at large, with a strong focus on the university Health System," Wood says, noting that the System will gain over 500,000 square feet of new space in the next few years.
"All of the changes made through these reorganizations are to improve service to university customers and are in no way retaliatory, a prohibited practice at the University of Virginia," says Wood. None of those reorganized lost salary or job classification, she adds, and Shaw's reassignment "is meant to take advantage of his extensive health system experience and expertise in program management and customer service."
"I've been effectively fired," says Shaw. "All I'm doing is simply gathering data– no budgets, no contracts, no projects, no personnel, no nothing," he says. "It's as much a do-nothing job as they could give me. The idea is to make me so miserable that I'll leave."
Shaw says he has feared for his job since he took UVA to court over its refusal to turn over a Central Virginia market salary survey he'd requested. "A salary survey applicable to a group of employees... to me, that would clearly be a public document," says state Senator Ed Houck, who's chairman of the FOI Advisory Council and whose district covers Louisa County, where Shaw resides.
However, a judge and the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled last year that Shaw filed his Freedom of Information Act suit in the wrong venue, the General Assembly stepped in and passed a law this year closing the loophole to make it UVA proof.
Shaw says he soon began to notice that he wasn't included in meetings or getting business communications he needed to do his job.
"I was excluded from my own department's safety committee meetings, something a person in my department and level would do," he says. And when he attempted to fill two job openings in an organization primarily staffed by white males with what he calls the "best qualified applicants"– a black male and a white female– "My supervisor kept it on hold for 13 months," he says.
Shaw wonders if intentionally keeping him short-staffed was an attempt to affect his job performance. Earlier this month, he filed a grievance alleging race and gender bias.
"If you're in a management level position in my department and you file a grievance, you're dead, in my opinion," says Shaw.
Wood declines to comment on Shaw's grievance, but says, "The university supports every employee's right to access the grievance procedure."
Shaw, 56, has worked for UVA for 16 years. "I'm really loyal and I give 100 percent," he says. "I'd rather not be stuck in a job that's meaningless."
He says he's consistently earned stellar performance reviews with the exception of his last one, which was average. "How do you go from stellar to worthless piece of crap?" he asks.
Shaw cleared out his office and started his new job March 26. "It makes me wonder why I carried my cell phone and kept my pager on 24/7 all these years," he muses. "I wonder why I woke my family dealing with all these situations."
Shaw says he's fortunate in some ways because the youngest of his four children graduates from UVA in May. He hopes to work at the university another decade before retiring– or at least he did before his job was eliminated.
"UVA has droves of talented, dedicated people," he says. "This is a bad message for all of them."
UVA said Will Shaw was not in danger of losing his job for filing a lawsuit against the university– and then eliminated his position and assigned him to what he describes as a "do-nothing job."
FILE PHOTO BY WILL WALKER