The creation of an environment in which members can work comfortably, unhampered by any form of discrimination, requires, among other things, the prohibition of sexual harassment.
The history of Local 802’s procedure for processing member vs. member complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace was described in last month’s President’s Report. Below is the text of the policy, which has been modified slightly to bring it into conformity with recent court decisions.
Prior to initiating any procedures, the charging member or members shall be notified of his/her rights to file claims with federal, state or local administrative agencies and courts of law and/or to file claims with the employer. The charging member should be cautioned that there are strict time limitations applicable to the filing of administrative and judicial claims.
The charging member or members have the right to utilize (a) the administrative or judicial procedures, either alone or in conjunction with the grievance procedure contained in the appropriate collective bargaining agreement and/or (b) the employer’s procedures.
If the decision of the charging member is to pursue the complaint by means of an administrative or judicial proceeding, then the procedures of the selected forum will apply and no further union action will be necessary. Similarly, if the decision of the charging member is to utilize the employer’s procedures alone, then there will be no need for further union action. If the decision of the charging member is not to utilize administrative or judicial procedures or employer’s procedures exclusively, then the following steps shall be taken:
A thorough investigation of the charges by the union shall take place. This shall include in-person interviews with, first, the charging member or members; second, the member or members charged; and third, any witnesses to the event(s) in question. There should be a complete and detailed statement of the charges obtained from the charging member or members and communicated to those accused. Where the harassment or other discrimination is alleged to be on-going, the employer should be notified or such other action taken as will protect the members’ rights during the investigatory period.
If appropriate, at this point, after investigation, an informal settlement may be attempted by the union. Such settlements have often been successful; however, be aware that these situations are, in an overwhelming number of cases, extremely delicate and highly emotionally charged.
If no informal settlement is accomplished, the union has two options at this point. First, if any possibility exists that the charges are valid, the charges should be forwarded to the employer since, under the law, the employer ultimately has the obligation to maintain a workplace free from discrimination, including harassment and retaliation. Second, the union may conclude that no discrimination, harassment or retaliation occurred and to, therefore, decline the grievance.
Both the complaining party and the accused party will be informed of the outcome of the investigation. If either party does not agree with the outcome, he or she may appeal by submitting written comments in a timely manner to the Executive Board, which will render a final decision. Such submission should occur, where practicable, within 30 days of the original decision.
If the charges are moved forward and the decision of the charging member was to utilize the grievance process, either separately or in combination with administrative/judicial procedures, then the employer should be notified in the usual way. The union may make available representation to both the accuser and the accused, upon request.
The union must insist that the employer conduct a thorough investigation and issue a decision in a timely way.
Should the employer’s decision be disputed by either party, that dispute should be processed in the normal way under the grievance procedures in the applicable contract.
Each step of this process shall be memorialized in writing. If, at step 1, the charging party decides to pursue the complaint by means of administrative or judicial proceedings alone, a signed statement to that effect will need to be obtained.