An important grievance victory overturning the termination of a UE Local 170 member who worked for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) will strengthen all West Virginia public workers' "right to representation."

The grievance decision - Lan Deyerle v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Docket No. 20136-2234-CONS (July 15, 2014) - and its impact on WV public workers' right to representation is explained below:

From the grievance decision: “Respondent (DHHR) is further ordered, in any meeting with an employee, where the topic is conduct of the employee that could lead to discipline, to allow the employee to have a representative present, if requested.” This is the first instance in which violation of representational rights has been the sole basis to overturn discipline based on allegations unrelated to the refusal to meet without a representative. The investigatory suspension, the investigatory interview and the dismissal without a predetermination were all found to be in violation of statutory due process.
First, DHHR violated the general mandate of DOP Administrative Rule §12.3 to limit suspensions to ‘a specific period of time.

Then, Grievant was informed that she would not be allowed representation during an investigatory interview, which concerned Grievant’s conduct and potential discipline. The investigation proceeded, without affording Grievant the due process of an interview with a representative to explain or defend her conduct against possible disciplinary action, in violation of West Virginia Code §6C-2-3(g)(1). She was fired without the benefit of attending that interview with her representative. DHHR policy that employees do not have the right to have a representative present at investigatory meetings “is void as contrary to law,” according to the grievance decision.
The decision identifies the benefit of representation in explaining and defending an employee in a meeting. DHHR had taken the position that representatives present must remain silent. According to Deyerle, this restriction would defeat the purpose of the statutory right to representation.

Finally, because Grievant was denied these due process rights, the dismissal itself was also reversed.

DHHR has appealed the grievance decision to circuit court. In the meantime, if you or a coworker are ever called into a meeting with management, which could lead to discipline, demand that your union representative be present - it's your right!