Yes, We Have Rights
Our rights come from decades of advocacy on the part of individuals, groups, and unions in the United States.
Our Rights As Public Employees and As Educators
I. Two Common Rights of Public Employees
A. Weingarten Rights: We Have the Right to Have Union Representation
In 1975, the pivotal Supreme Court case NLRB v. Weingarten, Inc. upheld an employee’s right to union representation in a meeting with an administrator which may reasonably lead to discipline. One must remember, however, that Weingarten is in the “Eye of the Beholder”. A meeting could be a standard teacher evaluation meeting, but change courses halfway through. Just remember, so long as YOU, the employee, has reasonable concern – YOU have the right to call for union representation.
To learn about the history of Weingarten Rights and how they came about, please consult “The Story of Leura Collins.”
Remember: Administrators do not have to inform you that you have the right to have your representative present. You need to advocate for yourself to protect your interests. This is very common and done all of the time.
And this is where your Site Representative comes in handy because s/he is the one who generally attend meetings with you. You can also ask another Union Representative (or even fellow colleague who is not your Site Representative to join you, but know that s/he may not be trained). Also, it is in your best interest to ask for this in writing beforehand. Send an email to your representative who you want with you. You can even email your administrator to let them know that you have requested union representation and are bringing someone with you. (This is not mandatory, but it’s smart to have a paper trail.)
But, when should you invoke your Weingarten Rights?
Common Scenario 1: There have been issues transpiring between you and administration, and you do not feel comfortable going into a meeting alone out of concern that it could affect your job, compromise your rights, etc.. Call for a union rep! Do not let an administrator talk you out of your representation.
Common Scenario 2: You get an email from an administrator requesting a meeting, but you have no idea what the meeting it about. You go into the administrator’s office and notice how an initial conversation about your day turns into questioning that makes you uncomfortable and makes you concerned. Stop the conversation and invoke your Weingarten Rights (your right to have a union representative present). Call for a union rep!
What if my administrator makes me stay in a meeting without representation? If your administrator insists that you meet without a representative, you must attend the meeting, but you do not have to answer any questions. Remain silent. Know that you cannot be legally disciplined for refusal to answer questions when you requested a union representative which was refused. You must sit there and listen, however, so you do not get accused of being insubordinate. Just sit, listen, and then leave when it is done.
B. Skelly Rights: We Have the Right to Due Process
In 1975, the Supreme Court case Skelly v. State Personnel Board upheld a public employee’s right to due process on the job. Public employees are entitled to a “pre-disciplinary hearing” and must be given written notice of proposed disciplinary action. Your Skelly rights provide the chance to respond to charges, the opportunity to see management’s evidence, and the ability to request an elimination/reduction of the discipline.
II. Our Rights As Educators
The CA Ed Code provides for a variety of educator rights related to grades, student discipline, tenure, lay-off procedures, etc.
The California Department of Education compiled together a useful list of resources related to Special Education.
As an educator, you have the responsibility to protect children’s well-being and to report to CPS if you have reasonable concern.
State and National Level Resources Pertaining to Employees