Can Management Play Favorites?

One of my co-workers was suspended for a customer complaint. Last month, our boss let another employee skate by for the same thing with just a verbal warning, because they like his numbers. What can we do to stop management from playing favorites?

— Never the Teacher’s Pet

It’s no secret that many bosses play favorites and pit Teamster against Teamster. You can protect yourself and other Teamsters from unfair discipline by keeping a close eye on how different members are disciplined.

Under a union contract, you can’t be disciplined except for “just cause.”

There are seven tests arbitrators and grievance panels use to see if there is really a “just cause” for discipline. One of the tests says that discipline is not just if some members are punished differently for the same offense (you can find the seven tests of just cause at www.tdu.org/justcause).

The best way to prove if a discipline is not even-handed is to document the level of all discipline actions where you work. What was the offense? What was the punishment? And what was management’s reason for the level of discipline?

If you don’t have your own documentation, the steward or union rep has the right to request from the company a list of discipline actions for a certain period.

A grievance panel or arbitrator will look more favorably on your case if you can show that management is playing favorites with discipline—if all other things are equal.

Your case is weaker if management can show other reasons why the penalty was harsher. If one member has a long record of discipline, while the other has a squeaky-clean record, then the arbitrator may approve harsher punishment.

Watch out for hidden consequences. Your goal is to get unfair discipline corrected—not to get other members in trouble. If you tell management that some members are getting away with an offense, management can investigate and discipline the members.

Finally, keep a close eye out for members who are disciplined more harshly because of their race, age (over 40), or gender. Racial, age, or sexual discrimination is against the law. Contact TDU for advice on how to deal with cases of racial or sexual discrimination.

If you have a question or comment for the Teamster Troublemaker, call TDU at (313) 842-2600 or email us at info@tdu.org.

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