‘Help! I Just Got Called Into the Office’

August 23, 2011: Is management calling you into the office or threatening discipline?

Get tips on how to protect your job.

When your boss calls you into the office, it can feel like he has all the power.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are some time-tested tips from other Teamsters about how to protect your job from unfair discipline.

Bring your steward. Under federal law, you have the right—called Weingarten Rights—to have a union steward present when management is conducting an investigation that could lead to discipline.

This is your most basic protection. But some Teamsters still forget it.

If management insists on meeting without your steward, you must attend the meeting, but you don’t have to answer any questions.

Ask management what the meeting is about. They are supposed to tell you, and you should make a note of it if they don’t.

Before you step inside, talk with your steward privately and let them know any relevant information—including details you may not want management to know.

Don’t let management go on a fishing expedition. Answer management’s questions with clear, short answers. Don’t offer more information than asked.

If you don’t know the answer to their questions, don’t make one up! It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”

Remember, a lot of times management doesn’t have enough information and is looking for information to make their case more solid. Don’t give it to them.

Ask for a recess if you need one. You can ask to step outside with the steward if you don’t like the way they’re handling the meeting or if management surprises you with new information or threats.

Make management make their case. If management decides to discipline you, they have the burden of proof to show that they have just cause.

Make management spell out the reasons for discipline before you try to argue with them.

When you think they’re done, ask them “Is that your entire case against me?”

Your boss might start the meeting by saying, “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t fire you right now.” Don’t fall for this trick.

After the meeting, you’ll need to do an investigation and file a grievance. You should use the Seven Tests for Just Cause to take apart management’s case. Talk to TDU if you need advice.

Don’t let warning letters slide. Warning letters can be used as evidence against you later. You should consider filing a grievance asking for the warning letter to be removed from your file.

If you’re a steward, don’t just sit there. Your job isn’t just to be a witness. You should be an active defender.

Your job is to find out what management thinks went wrong, try to help the member figure out what their best defense is, and speak up to defend them if management goes over the line.

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