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Prepare For Discipline
By Mike Hotovy, Branch 3825
Just another day in your office. One employee after another is called out on the PA and becomes, in your office parlance, "a dead man walkin", as they take the long stroll back to the office for a PDI. In most cases, the issues in question could easliy be handled with a discussion. But supervisors and managers at some offices seem to have fully bought into the "discipline first" school of management. With this in mind, here's a few reminders regarding your rights and defense should you face a disciplinary action.
First, before beginning a PDI, be aware of your Weingarden rights. Management must provide you union representation in any matter that could lead to discipline.
The key is, you must ask for that representation. So, before you say anything, ask for representation. Every time.
Secondly, management must tell the employee and the steward the subject of the meeting before the meeting begins.
This is critical. I have often seen supervisors go on disciplinary "fishing expeditions" engaging in non-specific questioning, hoping to find a disciplinable action to nail you with. Find out what the meeting is about, talk it over and prepare for the PDI with your shop steward, and only answer questions that are related to the subject at hand. Volunteering too much information often just gives management enough disciplinary rope to hang you.
Thirdly, if you are disciplined, it should be for "just cause".
Without quoting too much "legalese", managment must have justification for discipline that is fair and provable. So, if you are disciplined, here are a few questions to help determine if it is for just cause:
Keep these in mind. Much discipline can be avoided if you make sure you ask for representation and consult with your shop steward before entering into a PDI. The best way to fight discipline is to effectively aquit yourself in the PDI. Finally, by teaming with your steward, you can create a deterrant to rampant discipline by making it costly for management. Meeting with your steward before a PDI must be on the clock. Make management pay for your time, your steward's time, overtime on your route, and any additional time needed to grieve the matter should they decide to issue discipline.
- Is there a rule and were you aware of the rule?
Now don't think you can excuse any behavior by saying you were not aware of a rule. Intoxication, fighting, theft and the like are all behaviors that assumed to be known as improper.
- Is the rule a reasonable rule?
Management must make sure that rules are reasonable, based on the overall objective of safety and efficient work performance. (That line is an actual quote from the Joint Contract Administration Manual(JCAM). I wish local District managment would read the part about efficiency when they order carriers to take multiple bundles to the street).
- Is the rule consistently and equitably enforced?
In short, the rule has to be applied fairly and without discrimination. Also, management cannot consistently overlook an infraction and then turn around and discipline without warning.
- Was there a thorough investigation?
Management cannot issue discipline without a thorough and proper PDI.
- Was the severity of the discipline reasonably related to the infraction itself, in line with other discipline issued for this kind of offense, as well as to the seriousness of the employee's past record?
An important point here is that your past record cannot be used to determine guilt (i.e. "They've done this before, so they're probably guilty of doing it again") but, your past record can be considered when determining an appopriate disciplinary penalty.
- Lastly, was the discipline administered in a timely manner?
Remember, the more you know your rights, the less likely management is to take advantage of you.
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