WEINGARTEN RIGHTS: Employee's Right To Union Representation
One of the most important rights a worker has is the right to have a union shop steward or representative present during investigatory interviews by management on a matter that could result in discipline. In 1975 the U.S. Supreme Court gave workers this right. The right to representation has come to be called your Weingarten Rights. This right does not come automatically. You must ask for it.If a worker wants representation during a meeting with management he or she MUST ask for it.
The conditions that must be met before Weingarten Rights can be invoked
Employees have Weingarten Rights only during investigatory interviews. An investigatory interview occures when management questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his or her conduct.
The worker has a reasonable belief that discipline or other adverse consequences may result from what he or she says. This is the key standard used to decide wether Weingarten Rights apply or not. It does not matter if management intends to discipline the worker. If the interview or meeting may result in discipline, the worker has a right to union representation under Weingarten. "Reasonable belief" may be subject to debate, the circumstances surrounding the meeting or interview will determine if Weingarten applies. Example: if other workers have received discipline for similar actions, or if the employee has had previous discussions with management about discipline, then he or she can reasonably believe that the meeting or interview may result in discipline action.
The employee MUST make a clear request for union representation. The request can be made before or during the interview. Management does not have to inform the worker of their right to have union representation. If the interview is investigatory and a reasonable belief that discipline may result, the worker has the right to ask for representation and cannot be disciplined for making the request.
The notion, often asserted by management, that the only roll of a union representative in an investigatory interview is to observe the discussion is incorrect. The Supreme Court clearly acknowledges a representative right to assist and counsel workers during the interview.
The Supreme Court has also ruled that during an investigatory interview management must inform the union representative of the subject of the interrogation. The representative must also be permitted to speak privately with the employee before the questioning. During the questioning, the representative can interrupt to clarify a question or to object to confusing or intimidating tactics.
While the interview is in progress the representative can not tell the worker what to say but he or she may advise them how to answer a question. At the end of the interview the union representative can add information to support the employee's case.
When the employee makes a request for a union representative to be present, management has the following options
Management can grant the request and stop the questioning until the union representative arrives.
Deny the request, but immediately end the interview.
Give the employee the choice of proceding without union representation, an option the worker should always refuse, or end the interview.
Note: If management denies your request for union representation and continues the questioning, it is an unfair labor practice,and under these circumstances the employee can refuse to answer questions.
The Weingarten Statement
"If this discussion could in any way result in my being disciplined,terminated or adversely affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union steward, officer or representative be present during this meeting. Without union representation, I choose not to answer questions."
For your protection, you may want to read the above statement before the start of any meeting that you believe to be investigatory and may lead to discipline.