Work Now, Grieve Later for Unionized Employees

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What should I do if my boss tells me to do something that is not part of my regular job?

If an employee disagrees with a manager’s decision, they generally have to follow the order first and then address their concern through the formal complaint process provided under the collective agreement, i.e., the grievance procedure.

The principle of “work now, grieve later” is a widely accepted principle in labour law that applies to unions and unionized employees. The principle not only emphasizes the importance for management to have authority over and give instructions to the employees, but also for employees to fulfill their work responsibilities first and then use the grievance procedure as a recourse to address any concerns or grievances they may have.

The “work now, grieve later” reasoning stems from the understanding that neither the union nor the employer can make the final determination regarding whether the collective agreement has been violated. The grievance procedure, which is included in all collective agreements, serves as the means to determine whether there has been a violation of the agreement. If an employee fails to follow the “Work now, grieve later” rule, they may face disciplinary action for insubordination. In other words, if you refuse to work as directed by a supervisor, your employer may discipline you, up to and including the termination of your employment.

The exceptions to this principle are limited to a few specific circumstances, which are outlined in the following situations:

  • When performing the task would endanger the health and safety of the employee and/or the safety of others;
  • When complying with an order would involve the employee engaging in an illegal activity; or
  • When following the orders will negatively impact their personal interests outside of their job, such as medical privacy or personal privacy.

In these specific cases, employees are not expected to wait until the grievance process but can take immediate action to address the issue. However, it is crucial to remember that in any situation that does not fall under the exceptions mentioned earlier, the general principle still applies– continue working and address the issue through the grievance process.

If you encounter one of these exceptional situations, it is important to contact your union representative right away as they will be able to provide you with guidance and assist you with filing a grievance. You may also want to obtain independent legal advice from an employment lawyer so that you are aware of your rights and obligations.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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