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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 | NJ SAFE Act | Workplace Breastfeeding Rights

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.
  • May be taken in a consecutive, intermittent, or reduced schedule basis. 
  • Protection may run simultaneous to your paid leave or eligible reasons as well. For example, use 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, even if you have no paid leave left.
  • Upon return from FMLA, 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 under the same terms and conditions.

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 also use FMLA to reduce their hours per day or week.

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. For 2024, workers contribute 0.09% on the first $161,400 (wage cap) in covered wages earned during this calendar year. The maximum worker contribution for 2024 is $145.26.
  • Employees who utilize the program are paid 85% of their average weekly wage, up to the maximum benefit rate set for that calendar year, for up to 12 weeks.
  • Employees apply online, by mail or by fax directly to the NJ Department of Labor.

Employees can receive up to $1025 per week as of 2024. 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 


The NJ SAFE Act provides up to 20 days of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to to address circumstances resulting from domestic violence or a sexually violent offense. To be eligible, the employee must have worked at least 1,000 hours during the immediately preceding 12-month period. Further, the employee must have worked for an employer in the State that employs 25 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the then-current or immediately preceding calendar year.

Leave may also be taken by an employee whose child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner is a victim of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense.

Leave under the NJ SAFE Act may be taken for the purpose of engaging in any of the following activities as they relate to an incident of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense:

  • Seeking medical attention for, or recovering from, physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence to the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner
  • Obtaining services from a victim services organization for the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner
  • Obtaining psychological or other counseling for the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner
  • Participating in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating, or taking other actions to increase the safety from future domestic violence or sexual violence or to ensure the economic security of the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner
  • Seeking legal assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or derived from domestic violence or sexual violence; or
  • Attending, participating in or preparing for a criminal or civil court proceeding relating to an incident of domestic or sexual violence of which the employee or the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner, was a victim. 

Click here to learn more about the NJ SAFE Act.

Workplace Breastfeeding Rights 

Do I have the right to express milk at work? Yes. The Law Against Discrimination (LAD) requires employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees who wish to pump milk at work by providing “reasonable” break time each day, and a suitable room or other location with privacy, other than a toilet stall, in close
proximity to the work area.

Which employers are covered? The LAD applies to all employers in New Jersey, including private or state and local government employers, employment agencies and labor unions. There is a narrow exemption for employers who can show that providing the break time would be an undue hardship.

Must this break be paid? Break time to pump need not be paid. However, if the employer already provides paid break time and if the employee chooses to use that break time to express milk, then that break time must be paid. Employers are encouraged to provide flexible scheduling if an employee chooses to make up for unpaid break time.

How do I report it if I believe my rights to take breaks to express milk have been violated? An employee may file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) or in the Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Read the full NJ Workplace Breastfeeding Rights Explainer, or visit the NJ Breastfeeding Coalition's website to learn more.