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Tip Tuesday: Rules Interpretation Grievances

November 26, 2019

The Union has presented you with a grievance alleging that the Company violated the agreement. What should you do next?

  • In a “rules interpretation” grievance (as opposed to a disciplinary grievance), the Union has the burden of proof.
  • Review the Union’s grievance and make sure that it has been properly filed in accordance with the CBA and includes a specific rule or policy that has allegedly been violated.
  • Investigate the facts – Who, What, When, Where and How?
  • Review all relevant contract language, side letters, and past grievances and/or arbitration decisions involving similar issues.
  • Speak to the managers or supervisors involved. Get their side of the story and try to verify or refute the Union’s allegations.
  • At the grievance meeting, let the Union explain the grievance, and respond with the information you gathered that supports and/or refutes their assertions.
  • After the grievance meeting, quickly follow-up on any new information, and verify what was discussed with managers and supervisors, or other employees (including witnesses), as needed.
  • Determine whether there was a direct violation of any agreement language or written policy.
  • If the contract language is ambiguous, are there any substantial past practices that a.) clarify ambiguous language, b.) are independent practices where no language exists, or c.) contradict clear and unambiguous language?

The key to successfully winning a rules interpretation grievance is to fully develop the facts, and research all relevant contract language and past grievance answers. In doing so, you will put your company in the best position to determine whether to deny the grievance or attempt to reach a settlement of the matter.