Understand your rights

What should you do if the student you work with poses a threat to your safety? Can you refuse to work with the student without fear of losing your job? And if you are injured and seek workers’ compensation, can your employer dictate which professional you should see?

Sarah Drescher, an attorney for Tedesco Law Group, said safety concerns should be reported immediately to the employer with the help of your field representative. You can request — without being insubordinate — not to work in direct proximity to the student without a plan involving the union and the district.

“(However,) if the employer refuses to take such action, and the employee refuses to work … the employer may discipline the employee for insubordination,” Drescher warned. Contract language requiring districts to take specific steps to protect employees can make your request stronger. Generally, you are less vulnerable to discipline if you continue working with the student while following the grievance process.

If injured, Drescher said you should assert the right to see the doctor of your own choosing, but you also should consult with your field representative to ensure the refusal to use the employer’s doctor does not result in discipline for insubordination.

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