By L. Spriggs
Employers are notoriously famous for mismanaging workplaces, especially when it comes to discipline. This mismanagement generally works in favor of union members since employees can't be punished for breaking a rule or violating a standard if the employer hasn't been enforcing that rule or standard for a prolonged period.
When employers fail to enforce a rule or policy for any considerable length of time, the assumption is that the employer no longer expects its employees to follow that rule or policy. After all, isn't that the message they're sending by not disciplining employees? Arbitrators tend to agree, and they refer to such inaction as "lax enforcement."
In order to prove lax enforcement when defending members, however, unions must provide proof that a rule or policy was violated, and that management either knew—or should have known—about the violation but failed to enforce the rule or policy. For example, the union could provide testimony from an employee who previously broke the same rule or policy in front of management but was never punished.
Proving lax enforcement, however, runs the risk of what's called a "reset" by the employer, in which case an employer notifies employees of the existing rule or policy, explains how they failed to enforce the rule or policy in the past, and describes their plan to strictly enforce the rule or policy in the future. Once an employer has taken these steps, they're free to punish future violations as long as punishment remain consistent.
But we know that management is rarely ever consistent... ;)
Proud alumnus, union member, and educator in District #201 since 2006.
Dr. Hentze is the author of High Finance with Hentze, a monthly blog that provides news about District 201's current financial state.