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Company utilizing suspensions to control payroll?

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  • Company utilizing suspensions to control payroll?


    First of all I'm not sure if this is the right place for this post or if it falls under Labor Laws. I posted here first. This situation concerns my sister's employment with a major grocery store where she works under a union.

    Today she was sent home after only working for about 2 hours. She was called into the office and told that due to a 2-3 week old tardy that she was being suspended for 3 shifts. Interestingly she was asked just last Thursday when getting her next schedule if she was willing to drop 2 upcoming days to help cut hours/payroll. She declined as she already works so little. Then today she is given a corrective conversation and suspended for the exact days they had asked her to drop. I know that a company probably has the right to coach employees as they see fit and in whatever time frame they deem, it's just bad form to coach a situation so late (I am a manager by trade myself) but it seems rather suspicious timing. I can't really counsel her on this as I've never worked with a union.

    She also spoke with a few other co-workers who claim they were written up/suspended this coming week as well for old infractions. They had also been asked to cut their hours to help with payroll. I know these other situations are hearsay but if true seems a rather unethical way to balance payroll. I'm just trying to help her figure out if it's just unethical or if it's also against the law or could mean trouble with her union if true.

    Any help would be great. If I can help to clarify anything I will.

  • #2
    What state is your sister in?

    Nothing you have posted violates any labor laws, regardless of the answer. It may or may not violate her union contract, but only her union can say for certain. However, what state she is in will determine whether or not she is due any additional pay, over and above the 2 hours she worked.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      An employer using old infractions as a reason to suspend employees currently in order to reduce payroll costs certainly is a bad employee relations move. Of course we have no idea what the CBA states but it's possible that the employer's hands are tied to some degree in how they can reduce the workforce for short periods of time due to poor business conditions and/or the need to reduce payroll costs, so they've found a loophole in the CBA that allows them to suspend employees in this manner.

      There's another possibility which is that your sister hasn't told you the whole story. (She was suspended for just one tardy or has she been tardy quite a few times? It can also take a while for attendance record keeping to be done.)

      The bottom line is that nothing illegal is happening. Your sister can file a grievance with her union if she thinks a violation of the CBA has taken place.


      • #4
        Thanks for the info.

        To answer CBG, We live in Oregon

        And to Beth3, I too feared that it was just the last in a series of infractions culminating in a coaching (and subsequent suspension) She claims she hasn't had others and followed company policy by alerting them before she was late. She was however suspended for a different infraction in January for something that had happened a month previous. It caught her by surprise then too. Unfortunately the hammer of justice seems to swing painfully slow where she works. The lack of proper and swift follow up makes the manager in me cringe.

        But I digress... I'm a logical person and well aware of the labor mantra unfair ≠ illegal.

        I told her to call her union rep. I've never been in one so I wasn't able to tell her what to do. From a management standpoint it sounds like the way her store is run on a daily basis is a train wreck. However nothing she told me sounded like an infraction on any of her state or federally protected statuses, they just sound like unfair idiots.

        I guess what would be helpful to know if her CBA something she should have access to? To better understand her rights?
        The union is there to protect her right? So if she brings a grievance or questions to her rep, that's not (theoretically) going to get her in trouble?


        • #5
          Reading this, I think of another possibility. Times are tough pretty much across the board. My company is expecting a 15% reduction in revenue this year. I know that in this kind of economy, things that seem like they may be related even when they're just two separate things resulting from the same global issue--the managers of the store may be pressured to cut overall hours--asking for volunteers is a lot easier than just whacking someone's schedule in half.
          Then there may be analysts looking at every single punch on every single time card and asking those same managers whether this particular tardy or absence or extended break or what have you has been addressed. My managers have to account for every single minute of overtime right now. They're all on daily labor reporting, including detailing the performance improvement plans for anyone who has the designated amount of tardies or absences our policy calls for. And that is in addition to wisely managing their schedules and making sure every day is right on budget.

          The little things that may have been allowed to slide in a different economy aren't so little when every business is counting pennies--it may just be coincidence that the two things occurred in the same week, or it could be totally related. Her CBA may give a timeframe during which a disciplinary action has to occur (I've got one that says 15 days, one that says 3 days for performance, 30 days for absence-related issues, I've got one that is silent on the topic) or may cover how cuts in hours work. If she doesn't know where to turn, there is likely a local office for her union, or she could call the union's regional or national office to find out whom she needs to call.