The Devil Is In the Details

Supervisor walks into my office and says, "I don't want to hear about that Wein guy, I just want to know if the union has to be at this meeting I am having today."  What does that tell me? No legal jargon, no references to the Federal Labor Management Statute or the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Just the facts, Jack.

As he is describing what he plans to do, I am listening and seeking to answer a few questions for myself.

  • Is it a formal discussion? Does the meeting concern a grievance, personnel policy or practice, or a general condition of employment? What is the length of the meeting, the location of the meeting, is attendance mandatory, will he use a prepared agenda?
  • Is it an investigative interview? Does it involve a  bargaining unit employee and a management representative? is it conducted in connection with an investigation? Does the employee reasonably believe that this could result in disciplinary or advers action?

There is a clear distinction in the nature of the discussion at each of these meetings and this distinction is important.  In the case of a formal interview, the right to representation belongs to the union. That means that the union must be notified and has a right to attend, even if the bargaining unit members do not want representation. In the case of an investigative interview, the right to representation belongs to the employee and the employee must request it. The devil is in the details.

In this case it is neither. Turns out the supervisor wants to review new performance standards with an employee. I have some questions for him and he has answers. Yes, the employee is the only person these performance standards apply to. Yes, they were forwarded to the union for their concurrence and yes, the union concurred (remember this scenario is for demonstration purposes only!). He is closing out the current performance year under the current standards and will implement the new ones with the start of the new cycle. He is rating the employee fully successful or above.

If the answers were any different, we would be picking up the phone and inviting the union to a meeting. The devil is in the details and he can be a tricky one.