What Mistakes Are Members Making That Could Cost Them Their Jobs?

The number one mistake Local 21 members make when they are called into an investigatory meeting with their supervisor is failing to request that a union representative be present. An investigatory meeting is a meeting where you are being asked to defend your conduct to your supervisor, or asked questions that could be used as a basis for discipline. If you have a reasonable suspicion that discipline or adverse consequences may result from what is said at the meeting, you have the right to request a union representative and the meeting will be rescheduled to a mutually convenient time. These are what are known as Weingarten Rights, and it is your responsibility to invoke them. 

When you ensure that you are properly represented in such a meeting, you are making sure that you have an advocate who is experienced with meetings of this kind and can give you good advice on how to navigate the interview, in addition to potentially challenging any discipline that might arise. Additionally, not having anyone as your advocate and witness can sometimes lead to inappropriate questions from your employer or turn a casual investigation to a more serious one. Protect yourself, and request a union representative!

Here are some common scenarios where members make mistakes, sometimes with severe consequences:

Members sometimes think they will look “guilty” if they ask a union representative or steward to attend a meeting. Local 21 members work in an environment where the union has a legal right to be present, and your employer expects you to bring a union representative to such a meeting. You won’t look guilty, you’ll look smart!

Members might think that because they are a witness in an investigation and the investigation is not about them, they don’t have anything to worry about. However, you do not know where questioning will lead, so it’s always good to request a union representative to represent you even if you are being called as a witness.

Sometimes members get written notice of an investigatory meeting from their employer which states they can bring the “representative of your choice,” and which members interpret to mean that they have to hire a lawyer. Your right to grieve an unjust discipline is provided by your union contract and therefore Local 21 is your representative and should be the first one you call! An investigation is a process that the employer has to carry out to determine if discipline is warranted.  In most cases, hiring an outside lawyer who does not understand your union contract and doesn’t have a right to take your grievance to arbitration is a costly mistake.

Occasionally Local 21 members are told by their supervisors that an investigatory meeting will be no big deal, and they don’t need to worry about it. The member in question then doesn’t request a union representative, and the issue turns out to be a bigger deal than expected, or it turns out the supervisor doesn’t have a final say about discipline in the case. Always call a union representative, even if your supervisor expresses support!

Members may think that an investigatory meeting with their supervisor has to take place at a time of their supervisor’s choosing, and therefore cannot be rescheduled to accommodate the presence of a union representative. Likewise, members are frequently afraid to stop a meeting once it has begun and it becomes obvious that it is investigatory in nature. In both scenarios, you have a right to request a union representative. Except in select emergency situations, the meeting must be rescheduled to a time where a representative can be present.

Members who have correctly requested a union representative don’t always listen to their advice. For example, a representative might tell you not to offer more information than is asked for, or instruct you to call for a caucus if you are losing your temper. Listen to your representative! They have experience and can help you navigate to the best possible outcome. 

Click here to learn more about your Weingarten Rights.