Don’t let silence be confused with consent

Under the terms imposed by the Company, your days off can be changed without your consent once a year. But what does “without your consent” mean?

This issue arose after a group of employees in the circulation department had their days off switched. Guild President Tim O’Brien and Chief Steward Brian Nearing met with company leaders Monday to discuss the changes.

Company leaders praised the employees’ performance, saying they had increased revenue in the first week handling outbound calls. The TU also is looking to bring work now done by an outside contractor, confirming new starts, in house.

That was welcome news, but we did have one question: “Did you ask the employees if they consented to the changes in their days off?”

The initial answer was no, but if no one said they disagreed with the switch, the company assumed the employees consented. That means if the TU wants to change the workers’ schedules again in a few months, it would argue that employees could not invoke their right to limit changes without consent to once a year.

The Guild said implied consent should not be enough. Employees should be specifically asked if they agree to the change. Otherwise, both parties could find themselves in a later dispute over whether silence meant consent.

To its credit, the Company then said it would provide a form to employees asking if they consent to the change. If an employee says yes, their days off could be changed again in less than a year without their agreement. If an employee says no, the company cannot change days off again within a year unless the employee agrees.

Employees should not worry they will be penalized for saying they do not consent to the change. You have a legally protected right to invoke a benefit.

While this issue first came up in circulation, it is relevant to every Guild-covered worker, and we thought you should know about it.

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