Steward's Corner: Last Chance Agreements

What should a fired member do if management offers them a “Last Chance Agreement” as a condition for getting their job back?

Sometimes an employer will offer a fired Teamster their job back, but only if they sign a Last Chance Agreement.

Under a Last Chance Agreement, if an employee is disciplined in the future, just cause does not apply.

That means the employer does not have to give a warning or use progressive discipline.

It’s one strike and you’re out.

These kinds of agreements have been around for years. They were originally designed to give a worker “one last chance” to save their job even though management had a reason to terminate them—for example, employees with drug or alcohol problems.

But many employers are using Last Chance Agreements to cast a wider net—with unfair results.

Some of these agreements are so vague that management can fire a member down the road for almost any reason—without any right to file a grievance.

Should a Member Sign?

A Last Chance Agreement should only be used to save a member’s job when there are no other options.

The first step is to investigate and analyze management’s case using the Seven Tests of Just Cause.

Members should consult with their steward, union rep, or TDU to evaluate management’s case and decide whether to proceed with a grievance or settle by accepting a Last Chance Agreement.

Setting Limits

If a Last Chance Agreement is truly called for, then the job becomes crafting a fair agreement.

The union should not accept management’s letter at face value.

A good steward or union rep will insist on protections that will give the member a fighting chance to keep their job in the future. Last Chance Agreements should include:

  • An expiration date—usually one year or 18 months. The agreement should be removed from the member’s personnel file when it expires.
  • Clear language that restricts the application of the Last Chance Agreement to incidents that are directly related to the reason the member is in trouble. (A member who signs a Last Chance Agreement because of workplace violence should not be fired without access to the grievance procedure because of attendance issues.)
  • No vague language like “The employee agrees to abide by all company rules and policies.” Language like that can let the employer fire the member for almost any reason.
  • No access to confidential medical records. Note that if the member is being disciplined for a drug or alcohol problem, the agreement may require certification that they’ve completed a treatment program.
The employer will try to get the union to agree that the employee has no right to use the grievance procedure if they are terminated. But even in the worst cases, the union can try to negotiate language that lets the member file a grievance if there is a dispute over the interpretation of the Last Chance Agreement.

Desperate Situations

If someone is in a desperate situation and the employer is threatening to fire them, the union is not in a strong bargaining position to demand the best Last Chance Agreement.

But don’t let management get away with using these agreements when they don’t have just cause. File a grievance or you will set a weak example, and management will keep coming back for more.

Do you need help? These kind of situations can often be tricky. Ask TDU for advice.

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  • Brian Beard
    commented 2019-10-24 15:58:16 -0400
    I was recently fired from ups, I wasn’t aware of all the information as to my rights in my case.. my union steward and representative informed me to say as little as possible, no sir yes sir and nothing more, because I would just “be burying myself deeper”.. They were weak in representing me, they didn’t put up much of a fight, they’re were tons of discrepancies in the company’s case against me, and lots of misinformation presented at the local level, once at state level, the truth emerged and nothing they were saying in the first couple meetings were actually factual, they lied about who initially reported the incident, there was no statement of the complaint in writing other than managements, it was reported by a driver who I had significant history with, 20+ years, and had a fallen out with and hadn’t spoken to in over a year and a half, no investigation on my behalf, only spoke about the case with the rep for about 5 minutes Pryor to the meeting.. false pretenses on who was involved including but not limited to law enforcement, threats of felony charges if I didn’t resign and took it to the state level.. the company would repeatedly ask the same question over and over and manipulate my answer into what they wanted me to say, and would not move on to another question until they messed with my train of thought and trick me into saying what they wanted me to say so they have what they need to make it into a cardinal offense, union would just let it happen without stepping up.. I even heard one union steward say he would have said something but the company guy was getting pissed.. that’s a cowardice act and likely cost me big time.. the company lied to the panel members about what they said to me at the local level, saying I should be thankful the customer didn’t call it in because then the VA would be involved as would the local police, when in fact they made it clear that the VA was involved and conducting their own investigation and it would be up to them if they wanted to pursue the felony charge.. turned out the VA was never aware of the situation and the felony charge was their way of scaring me into resigning.. I was told by the union not to bring up that because then the police may really get involved.. but I wanted to make the panel members see that I was willing to risk that and my freedom and basic rights because my job meant that much to me, they said don’t.. company kept relaying the message to me that honesty was the best policy, well I was honest and they were not, and it got me nowhere.. I was made to believe that they could not hear or understand what my side of the story was over the conference call and asked me to just write it down, I did but not like I would’ve had I known that was my statement that would be used throughout this process.. the on road supervisor lied and said 3 different drivers reported the incident on the same day, something like 37 days after the incident took place.. there was only one, the bid driver for that route, the one with ulterior motives to get me fired at his own hand.. the supervisor covered for him and lied because he was well aware of the situation that had transpired between us.. all these are important details to my case that were mostly ignored.. and everything I worked for for the past 10 years is now being stripped away from me, and my 8 year old son as well.. I was dedicated to my job I made a mistake in engaging in a conversation with the customer that shouldn’t have took place, but at the time I felt we were jokingly conversing and was never an issue until 35 some odd days later when the bid driver caught wind of it.. I even was presented a monumental effort award for the entire district a couple years ago when I saved a mans life while on route.. I go above and beyond to service the customer and I feel I was not given a fair trial and was poorly represented.. is there anything, anything at all that can save my career at this point? Please help me, I’m begging you
  • Brian Beard
    commented 2019-10-24 15:05:06 -0400
    I’ve been fired, panel decision.. am I still qualified for a last chance agreement?
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