The following article from GSU legal counsel Ronni Nordal provides valuable advice for GSU members.
Investigation meeting with your employer? Call your GSU staff rep
When you are called into an investigation meeting with your employer, it is natural to be worried (even if you have done nothing wrong).
- Talk to your union representative before the meeting.
He/she may be able to find out some details regarding what the meeting is about and can assist you in preparing for the meeting.
- You should ask to have a union representative present at investigations that may lead to discipline and at discipline meetings.
There are many reasons why:
- Your union representative can ensure the questions asked are fair;
- Your union representative can ensure the questions asked are clear;
- Your union representative can also assist you in making sure your answers are clear;
- Your union representative will have notes of the meeting to refer back to;
- Your union representative can discuss matters privately with you if there are concerns about how the meeting is going;
- Your union representative helps balance the power, so to speak, as there are usually at least two if not more employer representatives in the room;
- Your union representative can ensure your rights are protected.
- Employers are entitled to ask questions during investigations and except in limited circumstances, employees are required to answer those questions (if they are clear, fair and relevant). However, there are questioning techniques intended to draw out the answer(s) the employer wants rather than the truth. Your union representative can assist in avoiding these interrogation style traps.
- What is said in an investigation meeting cannot be erased and, if there is subsequent discipline, may be relied upon by the employer. It is an uphill battle to say after discipline has been given that you misunderstood the question or were mistaken in your answer.
By not contacting a GSU staff representative when being summoned to an investigative meeting, employees are putting themselves in a potentially bad situation before the meeting even starts.
At a minimum, contact your GSU staff representative to ensure you understand the process and your rights and to discuss whether a GSU staff representative should attend the meeting with you.
Taking advantage of the services of a staff representative is a right you have as a union member and accessing those services is not an admission of wrongdoing or guilt, it is simply a smart action to take.
Even low-level discipline – such as a verbal warning – should be discussed with a GSU staff representative. There may be no reason to challenge the discipline, but in certain circumstances there is and that challenge must be done within the time limits set out in the collective agreement. It doesn’t work to have received a written warning for misconduct in January, for example, but not raise it with a GSU staff representative and/or not challenge it until a one-day suspension is handed out for the same misconduct in October since the employer will say the suspension was warranted because of the prior written warning (progressive discipline). It is too late at that point and GSU will be unable to challenge the written warning which means the employer is entitled to consider your “prior record”.
Why wouldn’t a GSU member take advantage of the input and advice of a GSU staff representative when called into an investigation meeting with the employer? As a member of GSU there is no need to “go it alone” and I encourage GSU members to take advantage of the knowledge and support of GSU staff representatives.
Ronni Nordal, LL.B.
NORDAL LeBlanc Law Office