Providing assistance to an employee in the negotiating unit served with disciplinary charges
Source: Inquiry from a NYPPL reader
A reader asks “what kinds of assistance may a union provide a member served with disciplinary charges?”
Most Taylor Law agreements include a multi-step disciplinary grievance procedure in lieu of, or as an alternative to, a statutory disciplinary procedure. Included in the employee organization’s duty of fair representation is the duty to assist an individual in the collective bargaining unit in the event the individual is served with disciplinary charges by the appointing authority.
If, after evaluating the disciplinary action initiated by the appointing authority against the employee, the employee organization determines that it has a duty to assist the employee in the defense of the disciplinary charges filed against the individual, its representative or an attorney designated by the employee organization can assist the employee by representing him or her in the disciplinary grievance procedure and represent the individual in an administrative disciplinary hearing as well as advising the individual in the following areas:*
1. Evaluate the charges and possible defenses available to the employee. The union representative or attorney typically has the experience and training to advise the individual of the potential for successfully defending the disciplinary action, in whole or in part, and the disciplinary penalties that may be imposed if the individual is found guilty of one or more of the charges filed against him or her.
2. Negotiate with the employer's representative or attorney. A union’s representative or attorney can discuss possible settlement or withdrawal of the charges with employer or its representative to negotiate the best settlement possible to attain a mutually satisfactory resolution of the disciplinary charges.
3. Evaluate settlement offers. If an offer to settle the disciplinary action is made by the employer, the union’s representative or attorney can advise the individual about things that might be prove significant such as the impact of a resignation from the position in lieu of the employer going forward with prosecuting the charges. Likewise the union’s representative or attorney may initiate settlement discussions with the employer's representative or the employer's attorney.
4.Consider the economic impact of the settlement under consideration. The settlement offer could have an adverse impact on the individual’s career, other job opportunities, retirement benefits and other elements involving his or her financial future that the union’s representative or attorney could explain.
5.Anticipate legal issues the individual may not have considered. The union’s repetitive or attorney can explain the plethora of legal issues that could arise as a result of finding that the individual guilty of one or more of the charges filed against the employee in a disciplinary action or, in the alternative, the potential difficulties that might arise in the event the matter is settled or the employee’s submits his or her resignation or an application for retirement in an effort to avoid a disciplinary hearing.
*These same general observations would apply in the event the disciplinary charges are filed against a member of the negotiating unit pursuant to Civil Service Law §75, Education Law §3020-a or a similar statutory disciplinary procedure.
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