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If I Sign It…Am I Saying I’m Guilty?

This is asked of the Shop Steward once, if not a hundred times…”If I sign the Letter of Warning, doesn’t that mean I am saying I’m Guilty?” One answer, every time, NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!

When you sign any discipline letter you are just signing that you received it at the time and date you signed for it. It does not mean you agree to anything within the letter or any of the allegations! And this is something you need to do on every Letter of Discipline, sign, date it, and put the time on it. This is especially true when it comes to 16.7 Emergency Suspension Letters.

The time the Letter of Emergency Suspension was issued, may be critical on what may be entered into the file in your defense. If you signed the letter at 11:00 am, and a document that was added to the file shows a fax transmission at 1:00 pm that day, it could not have been used in consideration prior to your suspension. The documented time could be extremely important on disputing what management alleges they used in consideration to issue the Emergency Suspension.

Always read the Letter and then sign, date, and time the letter. Management still has the “burden of proof” on any discipline case and must prove what postal regulation or rule you have allegedly violated.

The date that you sign the letter begins the 14-day filing limit for the Union to file a greivance. Day one begins the day after the date you signed the letter. If you signed the Letter on the 10th, then day one is the 11th, and the 14th, and last day to file is the 24th.

You must understand that management has no obligation to tell the Union it is issuing a Letter of Discipline to you. At the end of each Letter will be a paragraph that is highly important and reads:

“You have the right to file a grievance under the Grievance/Arbitration procedures set forth in Art. 15 of the National Agreement within 14 days of your receipt of this letter.”

It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to notify the Union of your receipt of Discipline. It is not your Steward’s, the Branch’s, or Management’s responsibility to begin the grievance process! It is YOURS! Your Union cannot initiate a grievance if it does not know one exists! Tell your steward, or if you do not have one, ask to call the Union Hall immediately!

Management should give you time immediately to talk to your Steward. In busy situations, they may wait up to 2 hrs, to allow you to talk to your Union Rep. If for some reason, such as the Steward has already left for the street, then Mgmt should allow you time upon your return to the office. At no time should it be longer than first thing the next morning! File a grievance if they are not allowing time for you to meet with the steward immediately, when requested, and do not have justification for delaying you. They must give you the reason WHY you cannot meet now, and WHEN (what time, not what day) you may meet with the Steward.

For each day a supervisor delays you talking with your Union representative, it delays the Steward from another day of investigation of your grievance. Do not expect to tell the Steward on the 14th day that you wish to file a grievance, and have them jump for joy! The job of investigation of grievances is hard enough without being placed behind the 8-ball to start with. Remember, that the less time a Steward has to investigate your grievance, the less time he has to go into depth on your grievance and give you the best possible chance for a favorable resolve!

Many carriers believe if they refuse to sign for the discipline letter, it was never issued. WRONG! Carriers mistakenly refuse to sign and then forget about the letter. This causes many letters of discipline to go past the 14-day limit, and then the grievance is untimely. The Letter of Warning that could have possibly been rescinded, or reduced, is now in your file for 2 yrs. ALL DISCIPLINE IS FOR 2 YRS UNLESS GRIEVED! DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

Some carriers have forgotten all about a LOW until they get disciplined later down the line for the same issue. Now, all of a sudden they are staring at a 7-Day Suspension! Being progressive, means that another discipline issued for the same issue already on the books, goes to the next level. Now, this LOW has extreme importance in the application of progressive discipline. Instead of grieving the LOW and possibly having it initially rescinded, or reduced to a discussion, and possibly just having to face a new LOW, the carrier is fighting a 7-day suspension! Always take discipline VERY SERIOUSLY, and grieve every letter of discipline.

There are times when the charges against the grievant may be true, such as failure to deliver express on time. Especially when the carrier admits that he cased the Express or simply forgot about it. We are not now disputing whether the carrier did it or not, but are disputing the length of the LOW. Remember, if you do not grieve it, then it is automatically in your file for 2 yrs.

Also, by signing the Letter of Discipline and keeping a copy of it, you have “frozen” that letter. When you do not sign a letter, and allow mgmt to write down “refused to sign”, and then they realize they made a vital mistake in the letter, they can go back and correct it, and re-write “refused to sign” again. They cannot forge your signature. Having that copy in your hands could stop them from changing the letter.

So remember, if you receive a Letter of Discipline, sign it, date it, and put down the time you received it. And then keep a copy, and report it to your Union Rep immediately!

You are not admitting guilt by signing the Letter and may be protecting yourself by documenting it!


Denny Belden
Aka-VetCarrier Orlando, FL - NALC Branch 1091

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