When do you need a Representative?

You’ve just gone to your school mailbox and you find a note from your principal that says, “Please see me today after school.” You wonder what’s going on, but you go to the office after school. Several things could happen. The principal may want to tell you about a new student. Or maybe there’s a meeting or conference s/he wants you to attend. But maybe s/he wants to know if you grabbed Johnny by the collar at recess, or ask if you were late to work this morning, or tell you that there was a parent complaint. Do you need a representative?

Case law (Weingarten) says that a unit member is entitled to representation at a disciplinary meeting or in an investigative meeting that could lead to discipline. It is, however, the unit member’s responsibility to request a representative, and a reasonable period of time must be given to secure representation. In the scenario described above, the reason for the meeting was not indicated. If this happens to you, you should try to find out what the subject of the meeting is, and if it appears that the meeting is disciplinary, tell the administrator that you would like to have a representative present. If you go into a meeting, cold, without knowing the topic to be discussed, and it turns out that it is disciplinary, you can stop the meeting and ask to have the meeting rescheduled at a time when a representative can be present. An administrator who denies you representation is subject to an unfair labor practice charge.

Often, when a unit member requests representation, an administrator will say, “Oh, you don’t need a rep. We can settle this in a couple minutes.” Whether you continue the meeting or not will be your call, but at the point that you become uncomfortable, or you feel things are getting out of control, stop the meeting and ask for a rep.

The right to representation also applies to meetings you may have with a parent and administrator. As long as the meeting is centering on a student’s progress a rep cannot be present due to confidentiality. However, if the conversation turns into accusations of teacher wrong-doing, you can ask that the meeting stop, and be rescheduled when a rep can be present. A meeting of this nature could be interpreted as investigative and could lead to disciplinary action, and therefore, a rep could be present.

Who can represent you at a meeting? Basically, anyone you choose. Your first line of defense is your site Association Representative. However, if that person is not available, or you feel the situation requires someone with specific expertise, please call the CNTA office. Having a CNTA representative with you often helps clarify the situation, but remember, it’s up to you to ask!