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Fired for starting a campaign to unionize.

by Anonymous
(California)

Hello,

Great website! First some background:
I worked over 2 1/2 years with a MAJOR retail chain in their warehouse section. I believe I was terminated for threatening to whistle blow the company's labor practices, as well as huge OSHA violations. Myself and 2 other coworkers attempted to start a card signing campaign to allow the ILWU union to represent us in the fight for fair wages and safety. Me being the leader of the organizing party, I was targeted for termination before the actual campaign began. They effectively created a fearful climate by doing so, and I cannot get character statements from former coworkers (who also fear for their job). The corporation will not allow me to obtain documents pertaining to the termination.

I was denied benefits recently and will be filing an appeal. I was initially told on 10/20/09 by management that I was being terminated for tardiness (despite the corporation having a 4 minute "grace period" in place). I was given no actual termination paperwork and the corporation paid remaining wages/vacation by cash with no check stub. I was only given an internet print out with the current check information (dated 10/20/09 at the bottom). After completing the phone UI interview to determine eligibility, I was informed that I was denied for "not completing the amount of work required by employer". The termination date submitted by the employer is also incorrectly documented on 10/18/09.

Will the corporation lose the hearing for submitting incorrect information? What points of discussion will be relevant for my appeal (besides incorrect date and reason)? How can I fight their claims if I am not allowed to view relevant documents?


Hi Anonymous,

I've changed the title of your submission to what you said was the cause for termination.

First, let's get the personnel file question out of
the way. Whether we can view or copy or get access to it is determined by state labor laws.

This page should tell you how to get your personnel file in California.

But don't lose that website because that's where you should probably file a complaint that the employer terminated you in retaliation for trying to organize a union .. "highly illegal" you know.

What was that you wanted to focus on? An "inadvertent error" made by the employer?

Funny thing is anonymous .. you say you were retaliated against for "threatening" to blow the whistle ..

I just got through reading an ebook because I'm considering recommending it. It's all about how we can take steps as employees to protect ourselves from exactly what happened to you by whistleblowing among various other techniques ..

If you were fired for the reason you say you were .. you should be talking to an employment attorney about suing the employer. If you can prove you were engaged in trying to form a union .. they committed a BIG no-no when they fired you.

It's a protected activity due to the very reason you stated .. nobody will give you statements for fear of their own job.

So why would you not use this to fight for unemployment benefits as well. The fear that your co-workers are feeling is understandable, but if you asked them to be witnesses at your unemployment hearing .. they too become protected and an employer would have a hard time doing anything further to them without it looking like retaliation.

Now I'm curious though, as to if you told the state the same thing you told me .. because the denial wouldn't really make sense then .. would it?

Had you gone as far at to have contact with a union organizer?

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Dec 18, 2009
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Forgot To Add
by: Anonymous

Yes, I did explain the situation to the person conducting the UI phone interview, but they seemed too busy to listen. The person was only interested in what the "official" reason for termination was (in my case, tardiness as I was told by management). The person only wanted facts relating to the "tardiness" and the official termination date. I told them of my union involvement but it didn't seem like they were documenting what I said. Probably should have used that defense at the time of filing. The coworkers don't want to identify as "union friendly" either. Can't afford a lawyer.

I guess I didn't choose to use unionizing as a defense because of the lack of evidence to substantiate those claims. Figured the incorrect date/reason was a fatal mistake on their part.




Did you have a documented problem with tardiness? Or anything at all?

We don't need lawyers as often as we think .. if we become aware of how to protect ourselves.

If you're going to go to the lengths of threatening and employer with blowing the whistle, you better blow if you want the act of blowing the whistle to afford you some protection.

Otherwise, you leave the door wide open to be terminated .. with no way to prove you blew the whistle.

Dec 18, 2009
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RE:
by: Anonymous

Hello,
I suppose I've chosen to focus on the "inadvertent error" made by the corporation because the union issue could easily be dismissed as hearsay right? I only have the HR computer print out dated 10/20/09 to counter their claims. I hadn't yet received or signed the union card. I did contact union representatives, but only verbally as the planning had just begun. How is that proven?

The discipline policy at this corporation is "guilty until proven innocent". Considering the fact that they lied to the state, they'll probably forge documents and insert "refused to sign" in the signature block. My former coworkers know this and may not want to speak out on prior (and probably current) conditions. They obviously made an example of me. There is no union in place at the moment. The activity was halted by these underhanded tactics.


The union doesn't have to be in place to raise the line of questioning. I think you should contact the union you had made contact with and tell them what happened. They may actually provide an affadavit or testify for you.

All you have to do to pursue this is to prove the company was aware of what you were trying to do.

Another line of offense is to use the employee handbook and the rules within. Get a copy of your personnel file etc.

The employer has actually switched their story from tardiness .. which was the reason they gave to you to .. what was it a failure to perform your duties .. or some such thing.

What's does the policy state you can expect in the way of discipline. Had you ever been written up before for the same thing? This is why it is important to view your personnel file. Do written warnings require your signature?

I mean, is there a rule in the handbook which says a refusal to sign is insubordination?

If you had never received discipline before and they did forge documents .. you could point out and question them as to why they didn't terminate at the time of your refusal to sign.

I'm telling you to open up your avenues and find a better argument to have a possibility of reversing the denial.

The discrepancy of the employer's reason to you and the state is something you could testify to, but if you pinned all your hopes on that .. it probably wouldn't work out for you.

How you prove your truth is up to you.

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