Know Your Rights! Discipline for Faculty and Academic Professionals

For the vast majority of employees at PCC, discipline is an issue that never comes up. But what if you suddenly find yourself under the microscope? What if your supervisor asks you to attend a meeting and you get the feeling you could be “in trouble”?

Disciplinary procedures are governed by Article 22 of our contract. There are three key provisions in Article 22:

  1. “Just cause” is the only reason for discipline to be imposed;
  2. Discipline must be progressive, meaning that (depending on the severity of the conduct) an employee gets a chance to correct behaviors before more severe sanctions are imposed;
  3. Discipline is limited to FOUR, and only four, sanctions upon the employee:
    1. Written warning;
    2. Disciplinary probation (doesn’t apply to PT faculty);
    3. Suspension without pay (doesn’t apply to PT faculty without assignment rights);
    4. Dismissal.

You have a right, under a provision in law known as Weingarten rights, to have a union representative present whenever any aspect of the discussion could lead to discipline. A standard reply you can give under Weingarten is:

“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.”

The PCC administration maintains that a manager, in consultation with HR, can decide independently whether any action, such as an MOE, is disciplinary, and as long as that action is not specifically called out in Article 22, then you have no right to representation during any conversation about your employment or working conditions. We disagree!

Note that the scope of your Weingarten rights is broad: you have a right to have a union rep present if the conversation could in any way lead to discipline OR lead to a change in your working conditions.

What we’ve noticed over the years is that HR seems to be running a shadow disciplinary system which relies on the MOE. As long as it’s “just an MOE,” they are effectively saying, then “whatever we do is NOT disciplinary and the union has no right to be involved.” But if you’ve ever been subjected to the MOE process at PCC, you’ve probably felt it was pretty punitive. And if an MOE says that it could serve as the basis for future discipline, then that MOE, we contend, *is* disciplinary, in which case you have a right to union representation during any part of the process.

Here are some rules of thumb:

  • If you have a good relationship with your supervisor and you feel comfortable talking about your work, then you probably have nothing to worry about.
  • But if you are having a conversation with a supervisor and you feel the conversation is starting to stray into uncomfortable territory—especially about things you are doing that are unsatisfactory (or you are NOT doing what you’re supposed to be doing) and what might happen if you don’t correct your behavior—then you should stop the conversation and say you’ll resume the conversation once your union rep is present.
  • Your supervisor can always spell out expectations, but when things start to feel “formal,” consider invoking your Weingarten rights—especially if the magic words “Memorandum of Expectations” are communicated at any point.
  • You CANNOT be disciplined for invoking your Weingarten rights or any union rights. These rights are protected under the law, and the employer will get in serious trouble for stopping you from exercising them.

One reason we’re so concerned about the MOE “shadow disciplinary process” at PCC is that MOEs have been used in place of the disciplinary process that the PCC administration agreed to follow, and just because an employee was given an MOE, this did NOT stop the employee from being dismissed (fired). We have a case going to arbitration soon that will make this very point—that PCC administration did NOT follow the disciplinary process; they moved from an MOE directly to dismissal, without establishing just cause and without following progressive discipline.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact anyone on your Executive Council or give your Federation office a call at x4178 or x4180.

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