UPI - EIU
University Professionals of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University Chapter
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|Know Your Rights! Use Your Rights!
|Pursuing a Grievance||What if you are investigated?|
What is a grievance?By definition, a grievance is "a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of a specific term or provision" of our contractual agreement. The grievance procedure protects members of the bargaining unit and the union as an organization against harm from administrative actions or omissions that violate our contract.
In some cases, the language of the contract is unambiguous and has simply not been followed. In other cases, the language is, at face value, open to interpretation, but various considerations such as legal requirements, past practice, understandings reached during negotiation, reasonableness, or fairness argue that the administration's interpretation is not justified. In either case, successfully pursuing a grievance requires substantive evidence in support of your position. The available evidence relevant to each side's position is gathered in a fact-finding procedure.
What a grievance is not.A grievance is not simply an administrative decision you do not like; one or more specific terms or provisions of the contract must be cited as having been violated. Suppose, for example, that your department chair has just raised the enrollment cap on a class you teach. This decision is likely to be detrimental to you and your students, but as long as the chair follows the CU guidelines in assigning your duties, you do not have grounds for a grievance. (On the other hand, if the chair has increased your workload to a level substantially higher than that of anyone else in your department, you might well have grounds for a grievance based on the arbitrariness of the chair's action.)
Actions or omissions that negatively affect our livelihoods, our working conditions, or the academic quality of our university certainly merit an organized response from us and our union in the form of suitable protest, public refutation, or political action; however, we are afforded the legal protections and provisions of the grievance procedure only if we can reasonably claim that our contract has been violated.
Who can file a grievance?Any member of the bargaining unit may file a grievance and may request union representation at any stage of the process. Typically, a grievant will seek union representation at the initiation of the grievance; the knowledge and experience of union grievance representatatives and officers is invaluable. If she desires, an employee may represent herself, but only the union can take a grievance to arbitration.
What to do if you think you might have grounds for a grievance.Your department representative or the Chapter Grievance Officer will be glad to assist you in reviewing the contract for relevant terms and provisions. In most cases, we suggest you first consult your department representative, in order to strengthen the union rep structure and your department community; however, if you think the situation is somewhat urgent or serious, or if your department rep is not readily available, you should go straight to the Chapter Grievance Officer. The Chapter Grievance Officer will normally be able to assist you in a timely manner, but if an unusual situation arises that prevents him from doing so, the Chapter President is knowledgable and can assist you.
For a full description of the grievance procedure, please see the contract article of that name: Article 19 of the Unit A Agreement, or Article 16 of the Unit B Agreement. (The procedure is identical in both contracts.)
Do not hesitate to bring a possible grievance or other concern to the union leadership. The union cannot help unless its leaders know what is going on!
Protecting yourself during an investigative interview.An investigative interview is a meeting in which a supervisor seeks information about your performance or conduct on the job that could lead to discipline, termination, or a change in your working conditions. You have the right to union representation at an investigative interview, and you should use it. Don't go in alone!
If a supervisor, such as your department chair, your dean, the university's Office of Civil Rights, or the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General, requests a meeting with you, ask the purpose of the meeting. If the stated purpose appears to be investigative in the manner just described, immediately call the Chapter Grievance Officer. If the Chapter Grievance Officer is not available, call the Chapter President. If the supervisor will not tell you the purpose of the meeting, assume it is potentially investigative and request union representation.
If you are at a meeting that is becoming an investigative interview, you have the right to terminate it until your union representative can be present. State the following:
These rights to union representation at an investigative interview were established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Weingarten case and have since become known as "Weingarten rights".
You have these rights because you have a union.
||Contract: Unit B