It’s another day at work, everything seems to be going well and it’s shaping up to be a good day. Then it happens; you receive a request to attend a meeting the following day and your supervisor advises that you are entitled to bring a union representative to the meeting!
What has happened? Why won’t they tell me what the meeting is about? What are the specifics? Aside from being frustrated that you can’t have these questions answered, being called to a meeting relatively blind is also incredibly stressful.
You have been called to a fact finding meeting.
Fact finding meetings are a very common and normal occurrence in Yukon Government workplaces. When a supervisor or manager receives a complaint or incident report involving a staff member, they are required to investigate – this means they need to talk to you and get your version of the incident or event. If you have been asked to such a meeting, you must attend.
The fact finding meeting is based on the premise that there has been a problematic event or incident of some kind. The employer needs to ask questions to determine what happened. You might not be directly involved; you may have witnessed the incident or have information that may help to make the situation clear.
These sessions are not meant to be punitive, but should offer space for an open and honest dialogue on the event being discussed. These conversations can feel incredibly stressful for the employee and may feel like a cross examination, but that is not the intent. Your union representative will be there with you to protect your rights.
Why do I need a union representative? It is incumbent on the employer to advise an employee of the need for representation if there’s any chance of discipline down the road. Discipline is not always involved, but the employer cannot deny a member representation then dole out discipline after the fact; this goes against the principles of the Collective Agreement as well as the principles of natural justice.
Why won’t they answer my questions about the event or incident before the meeting? Well, this is twofold; while they may state “we are going to be discussing event ABC” they cannot discuss the actual event outside the meeting. Firstly the employer would like to see unchecked, honest reactions to the questions posed. Secondly if the employer engages in this conversation it may be construed as part of the fact finding session when the employee has not yet had an opportunity to secure union representation.
These meetings are usually less than an hour long, depending on the events and issues at hand. During these sessions the employee, the employer or the union representative can ask for a break to have discussions or sidebar chats. These meeting should be, and for the most part are, very respectful and smooth.
What can I say? What can’t I say during these sessions? The intent of these fact findings is to bring the facts to light. The employee is responsible to be open, honest and accountable. Your union representative is there to protect your rights and ensure proper process is followed, but they are not defense attorneys and will not be using legal gamesmanship to avoid the issues at hand.
This is a meeting about FACTS, not about what you may think of a situation. Avoid deflecting accountability by drawing others’ poor behavior into the conversation. The employer may ask what others thought or said, but you should avoid commenting on how you believe others may think or feel about the incident or parties involved.
Do I get to have my say in the meeting? Of course – this is not a one sided barrage or cross examination. During the meeting you will be asked several times if there is anything else you would like to add. This is the time where pertinent items to the event can be offered if they have not been addressed in the questioning. This however is not the time to deflect accountability, point out others’ poor behavior or inject supposition or rumor into the meeting. Your additions should be factual, pertinent and meaningful.
It is also likely that the employer will have investigated the issue by chatting with other employees named in the event. These sessions are confidential and private, and employees are advised not to speak about these meetings outside of the HR/union/supervisory pathways.
How do I get Union representation? Call 867-667-2331 as soon as you’ve been notified of the meeting, and ask for the intake officer. They will ask you for the meeting time & location and ask whether have any idea what the meeting may involve.
Once this information is collected, YEU will make a call to the Shop Steward group to see who is available to attend your meeting. Once the Shop Steward has confirmed their availability, the Steward will contact you to discuss the process and answer your questions prior to the meeting. Some Stewards will contact you well ahead of time while others, depending on time of notification, may make arrangements to speak with you just prior to the meeting.
What can I expect once the meeting is over? Timelines are usually established at the end of the meeting. Your supervisor or the HR Representative will notify you of the timeline and might advise you that another meeting will be requested if more questions arise during their follow up. Generally, the post-meeting fact finding time is one to two weeks.
What will happen to me? This depends on the incident and your role in what transpired. One possible pathway is the performance management stream, another is discipline. I will cover these topics in an upcoming performance management and discipline article on the blog; keep an eye out and have a read.
Past President – Local Y010