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Robust Debate

Union officials are entitled to engage in robust debate which can include strong language directed against management officials. This may include discussions that are uninhibited, robust, wide-open and sometimes uncivil. It may include language that might be considered intemperate, abusive and even insulting.

  • When acting in their capacity as union officials, employees may find themselves engaged in heated conversations with their supervisors. The use of profanity, standing alone, does not remove the speech from the protection of the statute. Each situation is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • As representatives of the union, employees have the right to present the views of the union to the agency. This is considered protected activity.
  • Employees’ involvements in union activities do not immunize them from discipline. Some behavior escalates to the level of "flagrant misconduct", and may lead to discipline. An agency has the right to discipline employee union representatives for activities which are not specifically on behalf of the exclusive representative.
  • Employees’ complaints to, or about, an employer do not necessarily constitute protected activity under the Statute.
    • Robust Debate that is NOT protected activity (subject to disciplinary action):

    An employee, who is also a union officer, interrupts an office birthday celebration to declare the event a "blatant and ridiculous display of management's power." The union officer later complains about the dress code, calling a district manager "ridiculous," and speaking loudly about her supervisor. (This is not robust debate because the employee/union officer is not acting in the capacity of a union representative nor did it occur within a discussion between the agency and the union regarding working conditions.)

  • Employees who serve as union representatives can be disciplined for engaging in misconduct during a meeting. Certain actions by union representatives can lead to serious incidents of flagrant misconduct. These actions are:
    • Threats of physical harm;
    • Attempted or actual physical attacks;
    • Refusal to comply with lawful orders;
    • Failure to comply with laws or regulations.