Organized employees have more leverage in the workplace than those who interact with an employer independently. Collectively, workers can influence the culture at a company and demand better work conditions and compensation. Sometimes, the advocacy that unionized workers require isn’t support during contract negotiations but rather protection when employers take inappropriate steps against them.
Unions often serve a key role in protecting those who face wrongful discharge from their position at a company. Companies sometimes fire people with little warning, which can sometimes lead to claims related to wrongful termination. While there may be a paper trail established through a progressive discipline policy to justify a firing, it may still be a violation of someone’s rights.
Although solitary employees might struggle to push back against wrongful termination if it involves progressive discipline, unions are generally in a better position to hold employers accountable.
How companies abuse progressive discipline
The practice of documenting disciplinary issues arose in part because employers discriminated against workers or retaliated against them by firing them. The workers wronged by such behavior brought lawsuits and won, so companies began implementing progressive discipline strategies to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, they are also very easy for people in management or human resources to abuse. Examples of inappropriate progressive discipline might include selective enforcement of rules by writing up only certain people while letting others get away with the same misconduct or taking issue with someone’s work performance and demanding improvements when they do their job the same as their coworkers or have previously received positive reviews for the same performance.
Proving employer misconduct can be a challenge
Especially if an organization is taking the steps of creating a questionable paper trail to cover its tracks legally, the workers harmed by the company’s misconduct may have an uphill battle when preparing for civil court. Workers and even union representatives may struggle to properly research the case and develop a claim against the business without professional support. Still, holding organizations accountable for the abuses of systems meant to protect employees is part of what a union must do for its members.
Seeking legal guidance and fighting back when employers use systems intended to prevent workplace abuses to cover up misconduct is one of many ways that unions can help protect their members.