The Steward Perspective: Third in a Series What All New Employees Should Know

We have discussed work habits while on probation and documenting conflicting instructions. This month, we will cover coaching.
“Coaching” is when the employer assists you in learning your new job by going over specific actions you should take at work, or specific policies that you should follow, to succeed in your job. The problem with coaching is that some supervisors are construing “coaching” as an oral reprimand, which is incorrect. Whenever you are summoned to any meeting with management that could result in discipline, you have the right to request that your union steward be present at that meeting. (This is called your Weingarten right, after a famous legal case.) Supervisors must give you adequate time to contact your union and schedule steward representation. Stewards are not present at “coachings,” because, when correctly used, coachings are not disciplinary actions, but merely instructions on how to perform your job. We only find out about coachings when the employee is given a written reprimand without having received a previous oral reprimand. Under our union contract, a written reprimand cannot issue unless an oral reprimand was given earlier for the same infraction by the employee. When the written reprimand is challenged, the employer has said that a previous “coaching” was the oral reprimand. This is a violation of our union contract.

Whenever you are summoned to a meeting with a supervisor or management, please always ask, “Could this meeting result in discipline to me?” If the answer is yes, tell management that you request a union steward at the meeting, and then contact our union right away. If the answer is no, stay alert during the meeting for any tendency toward administering discipline, and if you sense that trend, ask again, “Could this meeting result in discipline to me?” Take a small notebook into any meeting with supervisors or management and make notes of: the date and time, who was present, and what each person said. Keep this notebook with you during your work day, but do not store it at the worksite. If there is ever a disagreement about what was said at a meeting, you will have your contemporaneous notes to back yourself up.

This suggestion was taken from an actual steward case. Following this advice could have prevented at least one grievance hearing.