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
- 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
- As representatives of the union, employees have the right to present
the views of the union to the agency. This is considered protected
- 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
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.