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The Daily Tar Heel

Grievances can be pursued: Surprisingly strong avenues in place for well-liked employee to clear her name

Whether or not former Rams Head Dining Hall cashier Angela Vargas was wrongfully terminated, it would be inaccurate to say that she has no avenues for recourse.

Aramark Corp., UNC’s food services provider, is a private firm separate from the University. While cultivating a strong relationship with University officials, it has also offered significant avenues for employees to pursue grievances.

“Aramark has been a good partner,” was the frank statement from Mike Freeman, director of auxiliary services.

“I work in this building. I see how Aramark interacts with employees 200 plus days a year,” Freeman said.

Some students who have spearheaded a campaign to have Vargas rehired don’t share this sentiment.

An online petition alleges that Aramark “fails to respect its employees, and fails to respect the relationships students build with them.”

Angry students see this as a foregone conclusion, but this statement is inconsistent with the procedures Aramark has in place.

This is not to say that there is no room for healthy skepticism. While the University is not the employer, it has a huge stake in making sure workers on campus are treated fairly.

In the case of Vargas, that is not entirely clear.

The problem is that the University is legally limited in its ability to scrutinize Aramark’s operations. Aramark hires and fires its own employees. And just like the University, it is obligated to protect the privacy of an employee’s personnel file.

According to Freeman and Aramark human resources manager Abigail Kin, Aramark has explicit procedures it follows in dealing with employees, including consulting human resource professionals prior to reprimanding employees.

They both also mentioned that a toll-free number is clearly posted for employees to complain to Aramark and have their grievances investigated by a third party.

While these options in no way exonerate Aramark in the case of Vargas, they at least show that avenues are in place for her to pursue an appeal.

And while Aramark cannot release information from a personnel file, Vargas can. The decision to make it public is hers.

Vargas might or might not have been wrongfully terminated. Regardless, the channels are in place for her to pursue her grievances.

It is certainly disturbing when an employee claims wrongful termination. And the University should not let its close relationship with Aramark cloud its judgment of that company.

But what can be said with certainty is than Vargas is at no real disadvantage compared to a UNC employee in pursuing her grievance. The proper tools are at her disposal for her to make the most of her fight.

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