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Know Your Rights

Most education employees go through their entire careers without facing disciplinary action. Nevertheless it is still important to know and be familiar with your rights should you or your co-workers need to exercise them.

In addition to the resources listed below, you may have additional rights spelled out in your Collective Bargaining Agreement (a.k.a. your union contract):

Your Right to Representation

Being called into a meeting with your supervisor or an administrator can seem daunting. It’s important to stay calm and remember your right to representation, also known as your “Weingarten Rights”:

  • Remember: If a reasonable person would believe that discipline could result from the meeting, you have the right to representation.
  • Ask: “What is the purpose of the meeting?” Could discipline result from the meeting? If so…
  • State: “I want union representation.” You can ask for representation at any time during the meeting.

DO NOT be insubordinate if denied representation.

  • Attend the meeting.
  • Keep asking for union representation.
  • Take good notes.

DO NOT sign or agree to anything.
DO NOT make or write statements.
CALL your local union office or service unit immediately for assistance.

Other frequently asked questions about your right to representation:

Q: Does this right apply to all meetings with administrators?
A: No, only those that conceivably will lead to discipline. This includes anything from reprimands to non-renewal or dismissal.

Q: What if my principal calls in other administrators?
A: You may have your union representative there also. Request it!

Q: What if I am meeting on a curriculum matter and then the subject changes to one that might lead to discipline?
A: Stop the “interview”. Request union representation, even if it means continuing this portion of the meeting to another time.

Q: Can I bring my spouse, a lawyer, or a friend?
A: No, the law entitles you to a union representative. You’re not entitled to other representation or witnesses.

Q: Do I have the right to call in a particular union member?
A: Generally, the union steward or representative will be called. The idea is to provide you with skilled union representation, in addition to the moral support of a union colleague.

Q: What is the role of the union representative during such a meeting?
A: The union representative is there to assist the member, and to protect the Collective Bargaining Agreement rights. The union representative has the right to speak on his or her behalf and to meet with the member privately before the interview with management.

Q: Can we give up our right to union representation?
A: There are two ways to give up your right to union representation either by contract language or by inaction. Your collective bargaining agreement does not waive your rights to union representation. However, once on the spot, you might be bullied into waiving your right or not asserting it. In such a case, you have little recourse later.

Do’s and don’ts when facing disciplinary action

  • DO remain calm.
  • DO contact your local union or service unit office.
  • DO keep notes.
  • DON’T make statements if you can avoid it without being insubordinate.
  • DON’T attend meetings without representation.
  • DO get preliminary details.
  • DON’T agree to a change in job status.
  • DO retain letters, documents, notes, etc. on the matter.

Here is some additional practical advice, which you should use to protect your rights until help arrives. If confronted with charges:

  • Remain calm and courteous.
  • Ask for your union representative to be present. If your rep is not available, ask to reschedule the meeting.
  • Listen carefully to accusations. Then ask for time to think or to secure information.
  • Make written notes of the events which occur in any confrontation or accusatory session, or of any other action which appears to be related. Take down every detail, including the names of witnesses and others involved while the details are fresh in your mind.
  • In the event of a confrontation or threat to your job, do NOT resign or sign any papers or agreement.
  • Immediately contact your union representative and your local union office if trouble strikes.

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