Wyoming Education Association

Winter 2016

Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/766038

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BACK TO SCHOOL 2016 | wyoea.org 9 Self-Defense Moves for Every Employee by the Hacker Law Firm E mployment problems can happen to anyone, even the best and brightest. Many employees with serious employment issues never dreamed it would happen to them. There are simple self-defense moves that all employees should follow to help avoid serious employment issues or help prevent an issue becoming a major employment problem. Protect yourself by keeping your own file. Keep a file at home with copies of all observations, evaluations, responses to evaluations, commendations, positive feedback from students, parents and administrators, warnings and reprimands, emails discussing items that may be controversial or questioned later, and similar documents. We often find that evaluations and other items that are assumed to be in district files are not there. Create your own documentation. Weeks or months later, your memory of exactly who said or did what will fade. Make notes of significant negative interactions, communications and directives about issues or procedure that may become a source of contention, or communications with parents or students when there is some ongoing controversy or potential issue. Write down what happened, who said what, where, when. Don't editorialize, just document the facts. If you have a concern that some verbal communication may later be denied by a supervisor, parent or other, create a record such as an email or note referencing the item. If creating a written record is not practical, consider mentioning the item in front of the supervisor and someone else, or tell some other person what you have been told. If struggling, seek help. Association leaders or staff can find help for you and make suggestions on how to overcome challenges. Get some support early, rather than waiting until the problem has become too large and it is too late to fix it. Avoid the snark. Resist the temptation to write snarky or sarcastic emails or to communicate verbally in a similar fashion. While someone may "deserve" such a response, it will not help. Stand your ground, and make your point in a straightforward manner without sarcasm or disrespect. It is good to explain and document. It is not good to use abusive language toward others, no matter how frustrating or unfair those others may be. Picture whatever you write being read aloud to a group of strangers and ask yourself, "What impression would the communication give to such listeners?" Contact the Association early. Your WEA UniServ Director or local representatives can explain your rights and help you manage the problem. WEA's UDs are not attorneys, but they have experience and training in how to help members in early stages of an issue, and to identify situations where there is a need to seek direct advice from WEA attorneys. Even though it may be awkward or uncomfortable at first, it is far better to talk with someone else than to keep everything to yourself, hoping it will just go away. If you experience any of the following, don't wait for the problem to get worse; instead, confer with your UD or local representatives: being placed on a plan of improvement; receiving a reprimand on a significant issue; experiencing a pattern of negative documentation or hostile communications from a supervisor, especially if there are express or implicit threats of discipline; threatened suspension or termination; experiencing health problems affecting your ability to work or you need an accommodation at work; you have been accused of physical or emotional abuse or other inappropriate conduct toward or with a student; someone is conducting an investigation of your actions; a complaint has been made to DFS or law enforcement against you; there is a serious issue of employee safety, including any situation where you are being physically injured by a student; or other similar situations where your employment or license may be threatened. Contact the UD immediately regarding any abuse or criminal allegations. If there is a potential criminal charge or DFS or law enforcement complaint or investigation, it is essential that you contact your UD immediately before giving interviews or statements. Even if entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, making a statement that innocently misstates some detail, or forgets to include some item that turns out to be important, or is taken differently than intended, can be very harmful. It is far better to first get advice about the process and what needs to be said and how to express it in a way that is clear, complete and not subject to misinterpretation.

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