We’ve promised you hassle-free, straighforward advice without the legal hem-hawing. There is no article that lives up to that promise better than this one by Joanne Narloch, one of our most experinced Labor Negotiators and Represnetatives.


1. Review your check stub/pay advice each pay period.  This is especially important after payroll changes such as step increases, change in medical insurance, etc.  Most errors can be corrected  if they are caught right away.  The more time between the error and discovery the lesser the chance of recouping the loss or arguing that you were unaware of it.

2. Don’t wait until the last moment to file a grievance.  You can always rescind it if the issue is settled or you change your mind, but you can’t file it after you missed the deadline.   If you miss the filing period or your math is off regarding the last day to file, you are SOL.

3.  Make the benefits and payroll person your friends.  These are the areas that are commonly cause for confusion and mistakes by employees and employers.  They are much easier to address if the union does not have to get involved and it can be handled informally. FMLA, sick leave, workers compensation, vacation accrual balances are examples of things that can and do go wrong. Keep on top of them.

 4.  Do not send jokes or sexual materials to anyone using your employer’s computer.  Do not use your work computer for non-work related matters such as shopping.   Systems are constantly reviewed and monitored and you do not want to be the employee that is caught and becomes the poster child example.  “Others do it “is not an excuse.  Trust me, they are smarter than you.  Do not think that by deleting messages or sites visited you will not get caught.   

5.  Surprise!  A work friendship is not synonymous with a love interest.  Don’t be shocked when the work partner with whom you laugh, have coffee, and share stories about your unhappy marriage with does not want to date you. No means no.    The fact that someone (especially female) is nice to you does not mean they want your body.  Be aware of boundaries and if you are unsure thread lightly.  You do not want to be the subject of a sexual harassment investigation. 

 6. Trust no one, especially your co-workers and supervisors about keeping anything you told them in the workplace confidential.  There is no such thing as confidentiality.    It is everyone for themselves when it comes to keeping their job.  You are better off by letting off steam after 5 o’clock.

 7. Do not, under any circumstances threaten a co-worker or supervisor.  “It’s a joke,” or “I didn’t mean it” will not get you off the hook.  In these times, workplace violence is taken very seriously and you can be fired very easily for violations of the employer’s policy.

 8. Never lie when you are under investigation.  If you are the subject of an investigation, it usually means the employer has something on you.  They are just waiting for you to lie because that provides an independent basis for discipline even if you did nothing else wrong.  If you lie, you can be fired.  Don’t do it. 

 9.  If you are in trouble, tell your representative EVERYTHING.  Believe me, they have seen it all.  Nothing you have done or said will cause them to lose sleep or look at you funny.    Everyone has done things that are stupid or embarrassing.   They cannot help you if they don’t know the whole story and truth.  Believe me, everyone else knows including the employer.  What do you have to lose?   Your representative is there to help you.  Tell them exactly what happened and deal with your shame later when the matter is resolved.

 10. Don’t forget to document important events if you have concerns about their impact on your employment.  Documentation is the employer’s best weapon.  Make it yours as well.  This does not mean you have to write down everything that happens in the workplace.  This just makes the employer ticked off at you and a potential target down the road.  Use discretion and your head.   For example, you might jot down meeting dates or times you may have asked for information and not received it.  If you are unsure of what you should be tracking, or if you should track at all, talk to your labor representative or a shop steward. 

Good Luck!

Joanne Narloch