Everyone wants a smooth working relationship on the job, but problems can arise in any workplace. As an SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH member, you have union protection and rights guaranteed by your contract and also several Supreme Court decisions.
What’s the best way to protect myself?
Read and understand your contract and know who your Delegates are. The contract governs terms and conditions of your employment.
What if I think my contractual rights are being violated?
Remember, obey a supervisory order and then grieve it afterwards. You have the right to file a grievance when management violates a contractual right.
Talk to your Delegate immediately.
There are strict timelines that apply, so work closely with your Delegate. If management refuses to settle the grievance, the Union may argue your case before an impartial arbitrator who makes the final ruling.
I think I’m in trouble at work – what are my rights?
A 1975 Supreme Court ruling, NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., gives you the RIGHT to have Union representation when you are being investigated at work. If you believe that a conversation with a supervisor could lead to discipline or termination, INSIST on having your Union representative present. These are called Weingarten Rights and it is up to you to demand them.
Follow these steps:
- Demand Union representation. You must ask for Union representation before or during any conversation that could lead to discipline. Management does not have to inform you of this right and they cannot punish you for demanding Union representation.
- After management is told of your desire for representation, they have three options:
- grant the request and delay questioning until your Union Delegate arrives and (prior to any conversation that could lead to discipline continuing) the Delegate has a chance to consult privately with you; or
- deny the request and end any conversation that could lead to discipline immediately; or
- give you the choice between having any conversation that could lead to discipline without a Delegate present, or ending the conversation.
- Do NOT waive your right to representation! If you proceed in questioning without representation, you have waived your right to representation Even if you have a good relationship with your supervisor or are innocent, do not waive the right to Union representation. If Management forces you to proceed with any conversation that could lead to discipline after denying your request for representation, you must do your best to answer their questions if they threaten you with discipline for refusing to answer. Do your best to avoid insubordination, and contact your Delegate immediately after the conversation.
Remember, Weingarten Rights do not apply to everyday conversations between members of the Union and supervisors regarding regular job duties or work performance. They only apply to questioning from management that could lead to discipline or termination.
Garrity Rights (Public Sector)
In 1967, in the case of Garrity v. New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that statements obtained in the course of an investigatory interview under threat of termination from public employment couldn’t be used as evidence against the employee in subsequent criminal proceedings. This is because a public employee’s employer is also his or her government.
This decision established what has come to be called “Garrity Rights” for public employees. Once a public employer (1) orders an employee to answer a question (2) under threat of discipline, including termination, the employee has Garrity immunity. This means that though the employee’s statements can be used against him or her administratively (discipline or termination), the statements cannot be used criminally by a prosecutor or other agency.
Though the employee does not have to assert his or her Garrity rights in order to receive them, it is important that an employee makes clear that any statement (whether oral or written) is not a voluntary statement. Often, the employer will advise orally or provide a Garrity form in writing to the employee, but again this is not necessary in order for the employee to maintain this constitutional right. Always ask for a delegate.
Loudermill Rights (Public Sector)
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill established what has come to be called “Loudermill Rights” which grant due process to public employees who are being involuntarily terminated.
Prior to being terminated, the Union member has the right to present their side of the story before the employer makes a decision on discipline. Public employees are entitled to oral or written notice of the charges against them, an explanation of the employer’s evidence, and an opportunity to present their side of the story. Sometimes these meetings are referred to as pre-disciplinary hearings.
The employee has the right to speak or stay silent at the Loudermill hearing. Also, the employee has a right to union representation, and the union representative may speak on behalf of the employee.
If the employee chooses not to attend the pre-disciplinary hearing, the employer may proceed with discipline or termination.