YOUR RIGHTS!

A BRIEF MANUAL FOR PGO MEMBERS

This brief manual is prepared by PGO staff for persons that we represent. Our intention is to help you over some of the hurdles you may encounter in your job. The most common areas in which our members run into difficulties, are listed here.

HOW TO GET HELP FROM THE UNION

In many problem areas, the most important thing you can do is to contact the union early and ask for help. While PGO staff is often busy and your problem may not seem worth bothering us about, in reality we would much rather know what’s going on before the problem gets out of control. So talk to us!

Your first line of help is your local steward. When you have a problem this is the person you should see. Generally speaking, you will also have a council president or chief steward backing up your steward. If you aren’t sure who these folks are, call our office for their names.

Finally, backing up these people is the PGO Central Office staff. They can be reached by calling, writing, or e-mailing. All the numbers and addresses are listed above.

YOUR PGO CONTRACT

If you are fortunate enough to work where the Guild has already negotiated a contract covering you, you should already have been provided a copy of that contract. This will cover important rights that you already possess with regard to your wages, benefits, professional conditions, terms and conditions of employment. If you don’t already have a copy of your contract, ask your steward to get you one.

PROBATION — YOUR BEGINNING

When you first come to work, you will serve a probationary period. The length of this probationary period will vary. Union representatives can usually tell you how long you will be on probation.

The probationary period is a time for you to discover whether this job is for you. It is also a time for your employer to decide whether to keep you. Normally during the probationary period there is a time when the employer can fire you without having to prove that the firing was for just cause.

However, you should get some feedback from your supervisor if you are having problems during this period. At the first sign of trouble, we urge you to contact the union. This may very well keep you from losing your job. While we cannot force the employer to take back a fired probationary employee, often we can offer you advice that may get you through the problem before it reaches that point. Sometimes we are even able to convince the employer to give you another chance.

Don’t be embarrassed to talk with the union about your problems. Probationary employees frequently have them and we want to help with them.

THE EVALUATION — YOUR REPUTATION

Most PGO employers provide formal written evaluations of an employee’s work during the probationary period and annually (usually around the anniversary date of your employment) after you pass probation. When we call the evaluation “your reputation” we know whereof we speak. Evaluations profoundly affect your reputation as an employee and may affect your chances for better pay, advancement in the workplace, the kind of reference you may get when you leave, and the kinds of jobs you may be able to get in the future.

That said, PGO contracts generally require that your evaluation be objective and accurate. You should never let a bad evaluation slide by you. If the evaluation is incorrect, you should discuss it with your steward and contest it by attaching a written reply. If the negative statements are true, then do something about them. Either way we are ready to help you.

Other rights that you usually have when you are evaluated include meeting with your supervisor to discuss the evaluation and receiving a copy of your evaluation. Under certain circumstances you may be able to file a grievance on an evaluation.

EMPLOYEE DISCIPLINE — WHEN YOU ARE ACCUSED

It’s the rare employee who never screws up. Even more rare is the employer who has never unjustly accused or punished an employee. Generally Guild contracts require employers to prove that discipline is for just and reasonable cause. A part of that is following the principles of “progressive discipline” which means that, unless we are dealing with a severe problem, the employer should choose the least severe disciplinary action that will get the employee to change course.

Disciplinary actions usually fall into the following categories:

  1. Oral Reprimands – This is when your supervisor tells you that you are doing something wrong. This type of reprimand may be noted somewhere by the supervisor.
  2. Written Reprimands – This will generally be in the form of a memorandum or letter telling you what is wrong and warning you of more severe consequences if you don’t straighten out. This will go in your permanent personnel file.
  3. Suspensions without pay – These are very serious actions for an employer to take and also require a hearing first. Normally, if this does not bring about a change in your behavior, discharge will be the next remedy considered.
  4. Demotion (Reduction) – This again is a very severe penalty and cannot be administered without a hearing.
  5. Discharge (Removal) – An employee cannot be discharged without a hearing.

If you know you have done something wrong, contact the union promptly. If we know the situation in advance of the employer, we may be able to minimize the damage.

If you get any kind of notice about discipline or a hearing from management, contact the union immediately. We will move quickly to help you with representation.

If you are called into a meeting and if it looks like the meeting may lead to discipline, demand that the meeting not continue until you have been able to secure union representation. Then contact us immediately!

LIABILITY – WHAT IF I GET SUED?

We are regularly asked about legal liability for our members. If you work for a public employer in Ohio (as most members do), you should know the following:

  1. Ohio law makes the public employer civilly liable for the actions of its employees, as long as those actions are in the course of employment and are not done in bad faith.
  2. The public employer must provide legal representation and pay the damages or settlement if you are sued.
  3. However, you are still personally responsible for your criminal acts, whether that is a parking violation or murder. You, not the employer, will pay the fine and/or go to prison.
  4. If your employer orders you to do something illegal, refuse that order, giving your reasons. Then contact the union.

If you find yourself in legal trouble, contact the union. Our legal staff may be able to help, and we will certainly want to monitor the situation with you.

DISCRIMINATION – WHAT IT IS

Discrimination is violation of local, state, and Federal laws and also violates Guild contracts. Employment discrimination in Ohio involves actions taken with you (including harassment) because of your –

  • race
  • disablity
  • union affiliation or activities
  • religion
  • sex or sexual preference
  • veteran status
  • nationality
  • marital status
  • personal life style

If you believe that you are a victim of such discrimination, contact the union. If discrimination does exist, we want it to end. We can help you file a grievance and also file charges with the appropriate governmental body.

SAFETY AND HEALTH

  1. If the situation is not immediately dangerous, you should always report it to management and do what management requests. Then contact the union to file a grievance to get the problem resolved.
  2. If there is a strong chance you could be seriously hurt, immediately remove yourself from the situation. Then notify your supervisor, asking to be sent to work in a safe setting. The contact the union so that proper steps can be taken to protect you.
  3. If a supervisor orders you to do something that probably will result in injury or serious illness to you, you should first give the supervisor your reasons for not following the order. Then you should immediately contact the union.
  4. Remember – your safety and health are more important than any job. When you act in good faith to protect yourself against real, imminent harm, this union will fight for you.