Unfortunately, the employee cannot be sure that the union is representing him or her in a discrimination complaint that the employee has brought to the union’s attention. In many cases, the union representatives side more with the employer than with the employee when there is an incident of termination or discipline. There is no way around the fact that the union must work daily with the employer and may feel that to go after the employer for just one employee would ruin that working relationship. There is also the issue of union representatives reacting to their personal feelings about a worker instead of enforcing what is in the union contract.
The union member who feels that he or she is being terminated or disciplined due to discrimination should:
1. file a formal grievance with the union; and,
2. consider filing a complaint with the EEOC or the state’s human rights agency.
When filing a complaint with the EEOC or state’s human rights agency, the employee must make sure that he or she follows the strict time limits imposed by these agencies. The union member may want to get the assistance of a local employment law attorney to advise him or her on how to handle making multiple complaints at the same time.
It is not unusual for a union representative to act slowly on a resolution of a formal grievance until the time has passed for the employee to file a complaint with the EEOC or the state’s human rights agency, which is usually a maximum of 180 days. The union representative may want to give the company an opportunity to settle things without the expense of litigation, the union representative may not be able to get the company to talk about the grievance, or in the worst case scenario, the union representative is wasting time on purpose so that the employee has no other recourse but to accept whatever settlement the union can get him or her. Either way, it is up to the worker to make sure that he or she files any complaints for discrimination before the time runs out.