Your Right to a TAUP Representative
You may have heard of this scenario: a dean or other administrator asks a faculty member to attend a meeting. The topic given is vague: a program she has worked on, or some concerns about his courses. There is nothing in the invitation to suggest that this could be more than a simple exchange of information or ideas. You hear later that your colleague is in trouble or has suddenly left. You wonder, is this fair or right, and what would I do in such a situation?
If you are called to a meeting with administration, your knowledge of your contractual rights and those of management may affect your future at Temple. You should be aware of certain critical facts before you attend any meeting with your dean or other administrators.
- If you are concerned that the meeting may lead to disciplinary action, ask for a TAUP rep to go with you. The TAUP-TU contract states that:
“… a bargaining unit member may ask for, and shall have the right to have, a TAUP representative present whenever he or she is asked to participate in an investigatory interview which the member reasonably believes may result in disciplinary action or dismissal.”
- You must attend if an administrator asks you to a meeting, and you must answer questions.
- You should ask management before the meeting, however, if you can bring a TAUP rep. If they say “no,” you should ask “why not?” Ask if this meeting could lead to disciplinary action. Ask for their answer in writing; an email is OK.
- MANAGEMENT HAS NO OBLIGATION TO TELL YOU that you can have a TAUP rep present. You are expected to know you have that right in certain circumstances.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY to ask for a TAUP rep, ask questions before the meeting, and judge the situation for yourself.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN PRACTICE?
Be realistic. If you know there has been some kind of incident or trouble, the dean has probably also has had notice, and could well want to talk to you about it, even if you have done nothing wrong. To be prepared, review any documents and facts that you have.
If you are called to a meeting with your dean or other management, your goal is to learn whether discipline could be involved.
- Ask in advance if you can bring a TAUP rep with you.
- Ask about the topic and purpose of the meeting, and who will be there.
- Temple is not required to answer your every question, but their responses may give you a direction to follow. If you find that the topic relates to a communication someone has sent about you or your classes, you should be especially alert.
- You have the right to ask, “Could the facts involved or my answers to your questions possibly lead to disciplinary action being instituted against me?”
- If the answer is “yes,” then you should exercise your right to bring a union rep with you to the meeting. You can call or email the union; we will work with you to find a rep as quickly as possible, hopefully before the meeting is scheduled.
- If you are unsure about what to do, call or email TAUP prior to the meeting (215-763-2287; 1-7641; email@example.com).
If the answer to your question about possible disciplinary action is “no,” you should try to get that answer in writing, or else send a confirming email:
Dear Dean _____________,
I understand from what you have told me when I inquired that the meeting about ________ scheduled for ______ does not have the possibility of leading to any disciplinary action being taken against me under Article 12 of the TAUP-TU contract. Thank you for this information. If I have misinterpreted anything you have told me, or if there are any changes, I would appreciate your letting me know immediately.
THE ACTUAL MEETING
If you have not brought a rep to a meeting, the following information will be especially important to keep in mind.
You may be surprised to find that several administrators, such as the Vice Provost for Faculty, an associate university counsel, or a representative from Labor Relations, are present at a meeting. The number alone may intimidate you. You should record their names and titles for your records and remain vigilant about the possibility discipline could be an issue.
Pay very close attention to the opening statement describing the purpose of the meeting, as well as what other administrators may say. If you are not sure about what someone means, ask questions.
In general you should listen more than talk. You may need to ask for clarification before responding to any questions. Employees are required to answer management’s questions, but of course if you are not sure, or need to consult some document or information to be as accurate as possible, you may say so. Do not say something you are not certain is true. That is, do not speculate. Stick to facts.
Ask for a copy of any communication about you that you have been told has been sent to management, for your records. At the least, try to establish who sent it, and what reasons management has for giving it credibility.
Regardless of what management says about whether or not they have reports or anything else, if you feel ambushed, confused, unprepared, and/or start to get emotional, you should immediately interrupt the meeting to ask for a TAUP rep. Again, if management says “no,” ask “why not?” And follow up by asking about possible discipline.
You should then call or email TAUP as soon as you can, preferably on the spot. The TAUP office is open from 8:30 to 5:30. We will tell you what the union can do to get a rep for you. A rep will likely not be available immediately. Temple administration is also aware of this, and the meeting may have to be continued later.
As soon as you leave the meeting, write down everything you can remember, especially about the questions asked and your answers. DO NOT WRITE THIS DOCUMENT OR KEEP IT ON YOUR TEMPLE COMPUTER. When emailing TAUP, we strongly recommend that you use a private email address. Temple can take your university computer and read the contents at any time. They can also read any Temple email (i.e., using your temple.edu address). TAUP’s email in not part of the Temple system, and management has no right to read your private, NON-TEMPLE emails. Protect your privacy and stay off the Temple grid.
MEETING WITH MANAGEMENT WITH A TAUP REP PRESENT
Any meeting at which you have a TAUP rep can have career-altering consequences, because it means you might be facing discipline (see Article 12 of the TAUP-TU collective bargaining agreement). Although having a rep with you is critical, there are clear boundaries on what your union rep may and may not do at any meeting with management.
- The TAUP rep’s role is to make sure the contract is followed, and to be a witness who records what happens.
- The TAUP rep is not there to act as an advocate, and is not there to “prove” or negotiate anything.
- The TAUP rep does not have the right to speak unless allowed to do so by management.
- When you do have a TAUP rep at a meeting, you must still answer questions. Management may interpret your answers or silence as they see fit. You do not have Fifth Amendment rights (i.e., to not incriminate yourself) at the workplace.
When meeting with your dean or other administrators, your primary job is to make sure you understand the questions, and to think before you speak. If you start to feel confused, angry, or overwhelmed, the chances are you will not respond to management in the most constructive way.
In such situation, you may ask for a few minutes privacy to consult with your rep so you have time to calm down, collect your thoughts, and see what your rep may recommend. Losing your temper, criticizing or making personal remarks about anyone, or taking impulsive action, will be self-defeating. Listening closely to what management says, carefully considering the question and your answer before you speak, and sticking to the issues Temple has raised will at least keep a bad situation from escalating to something much worse.
You are best served when you know your rights. Moreover, TAUP cannot help you if we do not have the facts. If you think you may need a TAUP rep, call us as soon as possible. If you think management has violated your contractual rights, it is critical that you let the union know as soon as possible. After 20 working days, a grievance is untimely, and virtually impossible to win. We are here to help you, but we need you to do your part.