WHAT A PGO MEMBER SHOULD DO WHEN CALLED INTO A
MEETING THAT MAY LEAD TO DISCIPLINE
While you may be the exception, we have found that almost everyone messes up sometime in a career. When this happens, you may be called into an administrator’s office to be questioned. Even when you haven’t messed up, you might be called in. Here are some rules to follow:
1. Never answer any questions or say anything without a representative of the union present. Under U.S. Supreme Court decisions (as well as under our contracts), union members have a right to have a union steward present whenever they are questioned about matters that may lead to discipline (Weingarten Rights). Generally, under our contracts, you have the right to representation when you are being disciplined.
Note: If you have messed up, it is probably a good idea to contact your steward well in advance of management knowing about it. This will give the steward time to help you prepare for the inevitable questioning. Your steward is trained not to discuss your problem with anyone except PGO staff.
2. Ask what the administrator is investigating. The administrator has an obligation to tell you what the issue is, not just conduct a fishing expedition. The administrator’s questions to you should be relevant to that issue.
3. Answer relevant questions. Do not babble. Never answer a question that has not been asked. Volunteering information sometimes gets people in more trouble than they were facing in the first place.
4. Answer relevant questions honestly but carefully. If you aren’t sure what to say, ask for a brief recess to consult with your union steward.
5. If you have messed up, if they have the goods on you, it is probably a good idea to indicate that you would like to correct the problem and put it behind you. We have found that management is more likely to be merciful to the employee who is willing to cooperate in improving performance.
6. If you have not messed up, but they think you have, your steward and PGO staff are ready to help you defend yourself and protect your rights.
SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
QUESTION: How will I know whether I am in trouble?
ANSWER: Ask the administrator if this is a meeting that may lead to discipline. Managers and supervisors are required to answer that question honestly.
QUESTION: What if the administrator says no, but then starts questioning me in such a way that I am worried about being disciplined?
ANSWER: Tell the administrator that you have a good faith belief that this may lead to discipline and that you object to continuing the meeting without a union representative present. Then go get your steward.
QUESTION: What falls under the rubric of discipline?
ANSWER: Here is a list:
- Reprimand (oral or written) — This is a statement that you have done something wrong, coupled with a threat of future discipline if the misconduct is repeated.
- Suspension (with or without pay) — They send you home for a prescribed number of work days.
- Termination — You’re fired. This also includes termination or non-renewal of a contract.
- Demotion — You are put in a lower classification and/or have your pay reduced.
QUESTION: Won’t they just do to me what they want anyway?
ANSWER: PGO contracts require that disciplinary actions be taken only for just cause. You need to take advantage of all the rights you have.
QUESTION: I’m not too good at this sort of thing. Is there help?
ANSWER: Sure! First just below this answer is some language you can use in these meetings to protect your rights. You can simply present this to your supervisor when you think you might have been called in to be questioned. This language is also printed up on little cards and you can get one by calling the PGO office. Of course you can also ask your steward for help. And you can call the PGO Central Office at one of the numbers provided above for help and advice.
HERE IS THE LANGUAGE.
(If you are called into a meeting with management, read the following to management or present the card with this language before the meeting starts.)
If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Without representation present, I choose not to participate in this discussion.