Rights Under Law

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Your Rights under the Law

Whether you work for CUNY or the Research Foundation, you have the following rights under the law.

Right to Union Representation

Also called the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, the Taylor law provides all public sector workers in New York State with the basic right to union representation and collective bargaining. It also provides for the structure and legal framework for collective bargaining, the rights of union members and the rights of employers. For example, should CUNY unilaterally change any aspects of your negotiated terms and conditions of employment, that may constitute a violation of your rights under the law. The union may file an improper practice charge against CUNY with PERB, the Public Employee Relations Board.

The National Labor Relations Act extends to private-sector employees the right to organize and bargain collectively with their employer. Employees covered by the Act are protected from certain types of employer and union misconduct and have the right to attempt to form a union where none currently exists.

Weingarten Rights

If you are called into a disciplinary meeting, or a meeting you think might result in disciplinary action, you have the right to union representation. You may read your supervisor your Weingarten Rights:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative or steward be present at this meeting. If this discussion could lead to my being disciplined and you deny my request for representation, I choose not to answer any questions."

In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the Weingarten decision, that an employee is entitled to have a union representative present during any interview which may result in his or her discipline. It is up to you to insist on union representation. If you fail to do so, you may waive your rights.

In 2007, Governor Spitzer signed legislation codifying "Weingarten" rights for public sector employees in NYS. The legislation amends the Taylor Law to add a new improper employer practice: "It shall be an improper practice for a public employer or its agents deliberately...to fail to permit or to refuse to afford a public employee the right, upon the employee's demand, to representation by a representative of the employee organization, or the designee of such organization, which has been certified or recognized under [the Taylor Law], when at the time of questioning by the employer of such employee it reasonably appears that he or she may be the subject of a potential disciplinary action."

Wage & Hour Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that workers be paid at least the minimum wage (currently $ 7.25/hour) and that they be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 hours a week. The overtime pay must be at least one and a half times the regular pay rate. The law also outlaws child labor.

Wage and hour laws are enforced through the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Health & Safety Laws

You have the right to be trained in hazards on your job, to know what chemicals you are working with and to access records concerning your health. You have the right to seek a safe and healthful workplace without fear of retaliation from your employer. This includes complaining to your employer, your union, or the appropriate government agency. The health and safety rights of CUNY employees and other public sector workers are protected by the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH). The health and safety rights of Research Foundation employees and other private sector workers are protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

You should contact your chapter chair and the PSC health and safety watchdogs if you have any concerns about health and safety issues. If you want to file a PESH or OSHA complaint, they can help you do that as well.

For more information about workplace health and safety, check out the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

Civil Rights Laws

The Civil Rights Act of 1965 prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This law and other civil rights statutes are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in areas of employment, public services, public and private transportation, public accommodations and telecommunications services. Qualified individuals who, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of a job cannot be subject to discrimination. Reasonable accommodation means making modification or adjustments to a job application process or work environment that makes it readily accessible and usable to people with disabilities. Examples would be modifying schedules, buying new equipment, altering a worksite, etc. An employer does not have to provide accommodation if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operation. The act protects more than 49 million Americans with physical and mental impairments.

The workplace discrimination provisions of the ADA are enforced through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993. It allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child; for a seriously ill family member (parent, spouse or child); or for their own serious health conditions. FMLA also requires the employer to maintain health benefits during FMLA leave and guarantees employees can return to the same or equivalent position following FMLA leave. At CUNY, as allowed by law, all employees are required to use vacation or sick leave for all or part of the 12-week FMLA entitlement.

The FMLA is enforced through the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.