Let’s say a teacher in your building believes her contractual rights have been violated. She comes to you—her building rep—for advice.
How many days does she have to file a grievance? Does that time bar include weekends? Holidays? When does the clock start?
What if the violation occurred at a much earlier time, and the teacher didn’t actually know her rights were being violated? At what point is the teacher who is claiming a violation “sleeping on her rights”?
The answers to these questions depend entirely on your contract. And every contract is different.
“There are certain things in your contract that you should know by heart,” CEA UniServ Rep Eric Marshall advises building reps, “and the time limit for filing a grievance is one. You are the eyes and ears of your local association—especially for new teachers, who may not fully understand their contract and what they’re entitled to.”
Marshall cites the case of a teacher in another state who had previously served in the military. “In the school district where she worked, her military service entitled her to a starting salary at a higher level than what she was offered,” he recalls. “The administrator who hired her knew that, but the teacher did not.”
While that information would become readily available once she had her contract, she didn’t have access to the contract during the interview and hiring process. Later, she failed to read her contract thoroughly and see that her starting salary should have been higher. By the time she discovered the discrepancy, years had passed, and she was unable to collect the back pay she was entitled to.
Tips for Your Next 10-Minute Meeting
- Take a close look at your contract, and be prepared to address these timelines and related questions.
- Get input about other areas where teachers need clarification.
- In your monthly newsletter, include a section called “Know Your Rights” that highlights some provision of your contract.
- Remind your colleagues that they’re expected to read their contracts and are presumed to know what they’re entitled to. “This is known as ‘constructive knowledge,’ which is distinct from ‘actual knowledge,'” says Marshall. “And it’s important.”
For more help with your 10-minute meetings and other materials to assist you as a building rep, visit CEA’s website for building reps at cea.org/members/buildingreps/.