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You may hear people say: “Join a union because you cannot be fired,” or “Union members have job security for life.” While neither of these statements is true, it is true that it can be more difficult to terminate a union employee than it is to terminate a non-union worker. The United States is an “employment at-will” country, which means that U.S. employers are entitled to hire and fire individuals at-will, without just cause. However, when an individual becomes a union member, an employment contract is generally negotiated in which there is a provision stating that the member cannot be fired without just cause. This single provision makes it difficult to terminate a union employee legally, and has led to countless wrongful termination lawsuits in the state of California.

If you employ union workers in your California business, and if you would like to terminate one or more employees without receiving legal backlash, consult with an employment attorney to make sure that you have just cause and that you are adhering to every aspect of the employee’s contract. At Garcia & Gurney, ALC, our business lawyers can help you avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit and operate your business in a smooth and efficient manner.

Following Through with the Termination of a Union Employee 

“Employees shall be disciplined or discharged only for just cause.” This one short sentence has the power to bind an employer to an employee through a number of hardships, trials, and errors. Under this type of contract language, an employee might commit acts that would be grounds for termination at any other non-union organization, but that are merely a slap on the wrist thanks to their status as a union member. As an employer of a union organization, you must approach terminations with careful deliberation and only fire an employee when you are absolutely sure that the employee engaged in behavior that would be considered a fire-able offense, and only after you have followed the proper protocol leading up to termination.

In order to determine whether or not you have just cause for terminating a union employee and  whether or not you followed proper procedures leading up to the employee’s termination, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you adequately warn the employee that his or her actions were grounds for termination before termination occurred?
  • Did the employee break a rule or regulation that was directly related to safety, or was it something arbitrary, such as not wearing the proper color shirt?
  • Did you adequately investigate the situation before making a final decision?
  • Was the investigation fair and objective?
  • Did the investigation produce sufficient evidence against the employee?
  • Were the rules applied evenly to everyone, and was the punishment administered equally to all involved parties?
  • Was the penalty reasonably related to the seriousness of the offense and the employee’s past record?

Before terminating a union employee, make sure that you can answer all these questions listed above. If you are unsure of the answer to any question, you probably do not yet have reasonable grounds on which to fire the employee in question.

Consult a Business Attorney

At Garcia & Gurney, ALC, we understand that you have a lot on your plate as is, without having to second-guess every decision you make regarding your employees. Our business attorneys are knowledgeable in California labor law, and can guide you in the best ways to conduct business and avoid any potential future problems. To speak with a Pleasanton business lawyer regarding the termination of union employees, contact us at 925-468-0400 or online today.

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