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Know Your Rights

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Our workplace rights are meaningless unless we know how and when to use them. 

Jump to: Grievance Procedure | Weingarten Rights | FMLA | NJFLI | ADA

Your Contract's Grievance Procedure

If you believe that your workplace rights have been violated, you should talk to your Shop Steward or Union Representative about possibly filing a grievance. Before you have that conversation, there are some important pieces of information to keep in mind. 

  1. KNOW YOUR FILING DEADLINE. The first thing you should do is check your Contract for the Filing Deadline. This information is usually found in the Article of your Contract labeled “Grievance” or “Grievance Procedure.”  The filing deadline usually starts when the contract violation occurred or when you should have reasonably become aware of it. It is important to know the filing deadline, because if the grievance is filed late, the grievance will be out of time, and may not be processed. Do not wait until just before the deadline to reach out to a Union representative for assistance!      
  2. What Type of Grievance is it?
    1. Contractual: A violation of something in the contract 

    2. Non-Contractual: A violation of policy, past practice, rules, procedures 

    3. Internal Complaints”: These types of complaints are filed with the Employer or sometimes an outside agency. These types of complaints are management’s responsibility to investigate and resolve.  “Internal Complaints” include issues like bullying, workplace violence, harassment, and discrimination. Note: the Union can assist members with these complaints in addition to grievances. 

  3. Describe the Problem/Complaint in Writing. The most important step is to express what happened in a clear and concise way. Before you reach out to a steward or union rep, make sure that you can answer the following. Answering these questions in writing is strongly recommended: 

    • WHO is involved?  You will have to provide the names, titles, and departments of everyone who you believe is involved, including witnesses 

    • WHAT Happened? Be able to describe what occurred. Be specific, generalized statements are not helpful 

    • WHY is this a Grievance?  Has the contract been violated? What about violations of past practice, the law, or health and safety rules?  

    • WHEN did the Grievance occur? Give dates and times as accurately as possible. 

    • WHERE did the Grievance take place? Give the exact location, department, area, etc.  

    • HOW can the Grievance be resolved?  Before a grievance can be filed on your behalf, you need to be able to express the outcome you are looking for.  If you aren’t sure, you can discuss and get suggestions from your steward or union representative, but without possible remedies, a grievance cannot proceed 

Weingarten Rights

What is an investigatory meeting?

An investigatory interview is a meeting in which a Supervisor questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his/her conduct. If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or discharge may result from what s/he says, the employee has the right to request Union representation. 


Examples of Meetings where Weingarten Rights should be asserted

  • The purpose of the interview is to elicit facts from the employee to support disciplinary action that is probable or that is being considered, or to obtain admissions of misconduct or other evidence to support a disciplinary decision already made. 
  • The employee is required to explain his/her conduct, or defend it during the interview, or is compelled to answer questions or give evidence. 
  • The purpose of the interview is to investigate an employee's performance where discipline, demotion or other adverse consequences to the employee's job status or working conditions are a possible result.

How to assert your Weingarten Rights

Tell management you want to cooperate with the interview but you are asking for the meeting to be put on hold so that a union representative can attend the meeting with you. A representative can be a Steward or a Staff Representative from your Local office. 

Do not go into the meeting alone unless you are absolutely sure that no discipline will result. 

Be sure to call your Staff Representative or Shop Steward as soon as possible in advance of the meeting.


Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)    
Family Leave Act (FLA)

What do all these terms mean? What's the difference?

FMLA is federal Family Medical Leave Act. It covers absences or leaves for your own medical condition. 

FLA is the Family Leave Act. It covers absences or leaves for your own condition or if you need to care for a family member. 

Am I eligible for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)?

Must have worked with the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. 

What benefits are provided by FMLA? 

  • Up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. Requires that health benefits be maintained during the leave, but employee cost-sharing and contributions still apply.
  • FMLA may be taken in consecutive, intermittent, or reduced schedule basis. Employee must make reasonable efforts not to disrupt needs of operation if intermittent or reduced schedule leave is being taken. Employer approval is required.
  • FMLA protection may run simultaneous to your paid leave or eligible reasons as well. For example, using your own paid sick leave and FMLA at the same time for job protection. This is governed by Employer policy.
  • You cannot be disciplined for using approved FMLA leave, even if you are taking that leave and have no paid leave left.
  • Upon return from FMLA leave, an employee must be restored to their original job or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Employers are also required to continue group health insurance coverage for an employee on FMLA leave under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

What situations are covered by FMLA?

  • Birth of a child, adoption or foster care
  • Care of a spouse, child or parent with serious health condition
  • Employee's own serious health condition involving any of the following:
    • inpatient care in a medical facility or subsequent treatment for such inpatient care
    • inpatient care in a medical facility or subsequent treatment for such inpatient care
    • Incapacity requiring more than 3 days of absence from work
    • incapacity or treatment due to a chronic health condition (e.g. asthma, epilepsy)
    • any period of incapacity which is permanent or long-term due to a condition which may not be effectively treated (e.g. Alzheimer's Disease)
    • any period of absence to receive multiple treatments either for reconstructive surgery or which would result in at least 3 consecutive days of absence without such medical intervention

Is FMLA paid time off or unpaid time?

FMLA is a protected status granted to the approved leave time related to your condition. FMLA could be applied to your own paid sick leave to protect you from discipline for excessive absenteeism. FMLA can also be applied to unpaid extended leave once your own benefit leave time is exhausted. Your paid leave benefits will be covered by your contract or by other law.  

NJ's Paid Family Leave (Family Leave Insurance) law which took effect in 2009 expanded the state's temporary disability insurance (TDI) program to give workers up to twelve weeks of family leave benefits to care for a seriously ill family member or a newborn or newly adopted child. Workers will receive two-thirds their weekly salary up to $1025 per week. 

Can I take intermittent leave instead of consecutive FMLA? 

You can take FMLA as intermittent leave or as consecutive leave. Make sure your medical provider is clear in your paperwork on this point.

FMLA can be taken in separate blocks of time. It may be scheduled in periods as brief as one hour to blocks of several weeks consecutively. The employee may use FMLA to reduce their hours per day or week (e.g. may need to go from 8 hours per day to 6 hours per day).

How do I apply for FMLA? Who decides if FMLA is approved? 

Your Human Resources department should provide all the forms required to bring to your medical professional. Your doctor should complete the forms and state clearly whether you are seeking intermittent or consecutive FMLA leave. Your doctor should clearly state how long the condition is expected to continue. If you are seeking FMLA to care for a family member, your family member's doctor can complete the form for you and list you as a caregiver. 

NJ Family Leave Insurance aka "Paid Family Leave"

Family Leave Insurance provides New Jersey workers cash benefits to bond with a newborn, newly adopted, newly placed foster child, or to provide care for a seriously ill or injured loved one.  While most New Jersey workers who take family leave are covered under the State’s family leave program, some employers provide Family Leave Insurance through a plan with a private insurance carrier instead. If you are not sure about your coverage, ask your employer.

  • The program extends NJ's existing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program to include periods of absence due to temporary family disability.
  • FLI is 100% employee-funded through payroll deductions from employees up to $0.64 per week
  • All NJ workers who contribute to the program will be able to draw benefits starting July 1, 2009
  • Employees who utilize the program receive two thirds of their normal pay, for up to 6 weeks, capped at a certain amount annually.
  • Employees taking family leave must submit documentation from a doctor to their employer certifying that their family member is seriously ill
  • Small businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt from the paid family leave insurance program. NJ public employees in state and local government are included under this program and are eligible to receive benefits

Employees can receive up to $1025 per week as of 2023. The maximum weekly benefit is determined by your salary and earnings. Maximum weekly benefits are set annually, so check with the NJDOL when you apply for FLI. 

More information about the Family Leave Insurance program is at the NJDOL website.

PEOSH - Public Employees Occupational Health and Safety

The NJ state PEOSH act protects public employees so they can work in an environment free from safety and health hazards. Under the 1984 New Jersey Occupational Safety and Health Act, the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services investigates complaints related to health hazards in the workplace while the NJ Department of Labor investigates complaints related to safety hazards. 

NJ Dept. of Labor PEOSH

The NJ Dept. of Labor PEOSH program handles workplace safety complaints.

NJ Dept. of Health PEOSH

The NJ Dept. of Health handles workplace health complaints.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any individual with a recognized disability is entitled to certain protections and accommodations in the workplace. Once an individual discloses a disability, employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” that can include changes to the job application process, modifications to the worksite or performance of a job, and adjustments that allow an employee with a disability to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment akin to their non-disabled coworkers.  

To exercise ADA rights, an employee must file a medical certification to the Employer (HR or other confidential office, not your supervisor) explaining the disability and recommending specific accommodations. Talking to your supervisor or coworkers about your medical condition does not automatically trigger ADA rights.  

Reasonable accommodations are still subject to employer approval and can be denied if they cause an “undue hardship” on the employer, meaning that they require a significant difficulty or expense. If an employer denies an accommodation for this reason, they are still required to provide another accommodation that does not cause undue hardship.   

Please contact a Local 1036 staff member to discuss your ADA rights.  

Read more about the ADA