Special Rules for Public Employees and Union Jobs

Do you work for the government?

Different rules may apply to your employment. Government employers, like the State, the County, the City, and Districts, generally have better protections for their employees than private employers.

But it is not a guarantee that these are actually enforced. Parents working for the federal government sadly have some of the worst protections in the country. Because every governmental entity has its own rules, it is impossible for me to give you a clear rundown.

If there is no charter, collective bargaining agreement, or other specific rules which govern your particular public employer, you will generally have at least the same rights as an employee who works for a private employer.

The great thing with government employees is that there is usually a system in place. There is often a physical office you can go to ask questions and a person designated to handle these requests. The downside, in my experience, is that these processes are slow and not always efficient. Often the leave requests overwhelm the administrators, and then mistakes are made or a backlog causes hardship on the employees.

If you have specific questions for the administrator about your rights, ask them to point you to the specific rule that applies to your situation. If they point you to a law, a charter rule, or a collective bargaining agreement, it’s probably solid. If they point you to a policy, it may or may not be in line with the law. If it’s not making sense to you, it may be because the administrator doesn’t understand. Don’t give up until you are fully confident that you are receiving what you’re owed.

If you do work for the government and you have been wronged, you need to act quickly, because you generally have less time to enforce your rights. Click here to contact me.

Do you work for a private or public employer with a union?

If you have a union, you usually have some true labor activists on your side. Most government employers have unions. Some private employers have unions. I’m a big supporter of unions, as they do a damn good job advocating for their members’ rights, like health care benefits, retirement benefits, overtime pay, seniority rights, for-cause terminations, etc.

Unions are a great way to keep the bargaining power between big employers and the employees equal. But I do need to caution you about unions. I have seen unions waive certain rights on behalf of their members to receive these benefits. When unions advocate for these rights, there is a process of bargaining with the employer which ends in a compromise.

In terms of maternity leave rights, the biggest impact unions make is whether the different leaves will overlap, or if they will be stacked. This can work out great, or not so great at all. Every union job will have different rules. You will need to ask your union representative to show you your rights in the collective bargaining agreement.

Let’s talk about union representatives and grievances. My husband used to work as a union rep so I know the inner workings of labor unions well. Most union reps are not legally trained, yet they are enforcing massively complex rules and regulations. I find it at the same time extremely admirable but also a little reckless. Many terminations are grieved through the union, but the union reps are not trained to look out for wrongful terminations.

They know the union rules, but not necessarily employment law. I have seen union reps inadvertently destroy their members’ civil rights cases. In one of my cases our client was fired after 30 years at a major grocery store for eating a popsicle. A popsicle! His union rep advised him to beg for forgiveness.

When we looked at the case, it was clear that the real reason he was fired was because of his age and medical condition, and they were just waiting for the next little thing to let him go so they could hire a younger worker who was at 100%. But he had already asked for forgiveness for eating the popsicle, based on his union rep’s advice. That was bad advice. He probably had the best intentions, but he’s just not legally trained.

We would have told him to push back and say, “You’re really firing me because of my age and medical condition. This popsicle idea is such bogus. You’re obviously trying to find something to cover up this wrongful termination. Why don’t you tell me who is replacing me? I’m sure it’s some 22-year old dude with no physical restrictions who rides a scooter to work.”

Generally, you want to enforce union-specific rules through the union, like seniority issues or priority of assignments. But please don’t grieve your civil rights like discrimination, harassment, retaliation and termination. Unions often have thousands of members, they are just not equipped for individual claims of this level of importance.

If you have a union, you can still pursue your own civil case, and in my experience you will be entitled to a lot more remedies than through a grievance. If you feel like your union is not representing your interests, please contact me so we can discuss if I can help you.

We dive deep into your rights at work in The Mamattorney Academy, which offers expert legal education, videos, attorney-drafted SCRIPTS, community, workshops, and monthly live calls. This Academy was created for with a special focus on women and parents who work, with sections on expanded state-specific rights where applicable. The Academy will tell you exactly which laws apply to your situation and will teach you how to strategically use those laws as a tool to set healthy boundaries at work and get paid your worth.

I’m on a mission to educate every woman on her rights at work. You probably have more rights than you think you do. You CAN advocate for yourself in a way that is well-received and protected. You CAN successfully combine a family life with your job. You do NOT have to compromise your health, your time at home, or your career growth. You just need to know your rights, and how to use them. Join us.

If you are experiencing a specific legal matter, please fill out my intake form here.

DISCLAIMER – This blog is for educational purposes and to give general information and a general understanding of the laws relating to California employment law. It is not intended to provide specific legal advice, nor should you use it for that purpose. By using this blog you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Mamattorney or Delvaux Law and you should not use this blog as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. We don’t know anything about your particular situation, and the law has many exceptions. If you have a dispute with your employer, you need to consult with an employment lawyer.

Hi, I’m Daphne

I’m a mother as well as owner of Delvaux Law, the nation’s FIRST law firm devoted entirely to women’s rights at work. I help mothers when there’s an obstacle or conflict at work preventing them from caring for their babies or themselves, or when having a baby puts their job at risk or actually results in job loss. When companies don’t follow the rules, the burden falls on our families. Mothers need an advocate who understands their rights, and an advocate who understands life as a working mom, including how important it is for your time with your baby to be stress-free so you can heal and bond without anxiety or pressure. I have a track record of success in standing up to corporations that don’t respect their pregnant employees, including a $1,000,000 result for a pregnancy discrimination case. You need someone in your corner to help you navigate the complex laws ignored or abused by your employer, so that you can focus on enjoying your sacred time with your new baby. I’ve got you, mama. Click here to learn more about my success record.
Join the Newsletter

Changes in the law. New rights at work. You’ll be the first to know if you join our newsletter.

Share this Post

Leave a Comment

Related Blog Posts

We will never spam you or share your email with anyone. In addition to the webinar you’ll also receive semi-regular email updates with tips, tools, offers and exclusive resources. All emails include an unsubscribe link, you may opt-out at any time. Read our Privacy Policy to see how your data is handled.