Investigating Grievances

Use these tips to improve your chances of winning your grievances.

360_thumb.pngA good investigation can be key in winning your grievance.

A good investigation will gather evidence that supports your grievance and make it harder for management to pick holes in your case.

Follow these investigation tips to get the facts you need to prove your case and win your grievance.

Get the Facts: The Six W’s

Whether it’s a contract violation or a discipline case, there are six questions to ask for every grievance:

  • Who is involved?

  • When did it happen?

  • Where did it happen?

  • Why did the issue occur, and why it violates the contract?

  • What happened, and what is the remedy?

  • Are there any witnesses?

These questions will help you track down all the facts you need to present a solid case.

Interviewing the Member

You need to get the full story of what happened from the grievant, especially in disciplinary cases. The best way to do this is to interview the grievant, asking them the Six W’s.

Ask the grievant to be as specific as possible.

When you’re dealing with a disciplinary grievance, your questions might make some members suspicious.

Assure them at the start that you’re on their side. Tell them, “If I ask questions management will ask, it’s because I need to know the answers to represent you well.”

You want the whole story, not just the best version from the grievant’s side. After they’ve told their story, ask them, “What do you think management will say happened? We need to prepare for their strongest arguments.”

Find out from the grievant if there are any wit-nesses: other Teamsters, supervisors, and in some cases customers.

After you’ve interviewed the grievant, review the facts with them, and the sequence of events. Make sure you’ve got the facts straight.

Management’s Story

When you’re handling a disciplinary grievance, management will often try to change their story.

Don’t let management set up a moving target. Use your investigation to pin them down.

Make sure you get the full story from each of the supervisors involved.

Talk to different supervisors individually, and look for inconsistencies in their stories. Talk to supervisors early, before they get a chance to get their stories straight.

In the grievance hearing on a disciplinary matter, management presents their case first.

Take careful notes, and when they’re finished talking, ask them, “Is this your entire case?” Don’t let them try to introduce new facts later into the hearing.
Remember, management is supposed to do a thorough investigation and then, based on that, apply the appropriate discipline. So once discipline has been issued, their investigation is done.

Using Information Requests

The National Labor Relations Act gives the union and stewards the right to get information from the company to investigate grievances, including:

  • Accident reports
  • Attendance records
  • Bargaining notes
  • Customer contracts
  • Correspondence and memos
  • Investigatory interview notes
  • Job descriptions
  • Personnel files
  • Seniority records and bids
  • Time cards
  • Security videos, and more
  • Language to Include in Every Request

You should always make specific requests for the documents you need. But employers are also obligated to respond to broad inquiries.

For a disciplinary grievance, you can ask, “Please supply all documents, reports, and other evidence utilized in making the decision to discipline the grievant.”

For a contractual grievance, ask for “All documents, records, and facts used in determining the company’s position.”

Keep careful track of the information you request from management. Object in a grievance meeting if management tries to introduce information or documents that you’ve requested, but that they haven’t provided.

If management denies your information request, the local union can file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

Taking Notes is Key

“Figure out a way to take notes that works for you: could be audio notes on your phone, or use a small planner with dates that you carry with you and take notes on at work or in the parking lot, depending on the phone policy at your workplace.

“Having an ongoing record of events of what is happening in the building is important. Then, when management says on X date this happened, you can respond. I won a grievance because I had that specific information recorded and management couldn’t deny it happened or settle it short.”

Elbe Lieb
UPS Preload Steward, Local 135, Indiana

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