Q. Our union agreement says we must give 48 hours’ notice before dismissing a regular employee. But we have proof that two employees have been harassing—and continue to harass—black and gay employees. In fact, their harassment just caused us to lose a good employee who couldn’t take it any longer. What trumps what?
A. Both the union agreement and Title VII and state anti-discrimination law apply. If you terminate the two employees without providing the 48 hours’ notice and the employees grieve the matter to arbitration, an arbitrator is likely to focus on whether the union agreement was violated.
If the harassment victims file harassment claims in court, the court will likely focus on whether you complied with your responsibility to maintain a harassment-free workplace.
You can comply with the agreement and meet your responsibilities under harassment law by conducting a prompt investigation during which you could immediately suspend the alleged harassers.
If your investigation concludes that the alleged harassers should be terminated, you can then give the steward 48 hours’ notice while the employees are on suspension.
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