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In 1975, in
NLRB v. J. WEINGARTEN, INC., 420 U.S. 251 (1975)

, the
U.S. Supreme Court announced the rights of employees in the presence
of union representatives during investigatory interviews. Since that
case involved a clerk being investigated by the Weingarten Company,
these rights have become known as Weingarten rights.


When management begins to ask you
questions that could lead to your being disciplined, you don’t have
to face it alone. If you have a reasonable belief that answers you
give could be used by the supervisor to discipline you, the U.S.
Supreme Court says you can refuse to answer any questions until the
union steward is on the scene and has had a chance to talk
things over with you first. It’s your right to have the
steward present during the questioning to advise you, ask
supervisors for clarifications, and provide additional information
at the end of the session. The employee subject to the interview
must reasonably believe that the investigatory interview will result
in disciplinary action. A meeting called by the employer for the
purpose of informing the employee of the imposition of discipline
already decided, is not an interview subject to Weingarten rights

is not required to inform the employee of his/her Weingarten

is not required to inform the employee of his/her Weingarten
rights; it is the employees responsibility to know and request.

Once you’ve asked for the steward,
any attempt by management to continue asking questions before a
steward gets there an unfair labor practice . If supervisors pressure you by
telling you that "you’re only making things worse for yourself" by
asking for a steward, that’s against the law . So be sure to:

Request the presence of a Union
representative .
Ask if you are a suspect in a criminal matter.
Do not consent to a search of person or property. Ask to
see a search warrant.
Do not waive any rights, including the right to remain
Do not sign a waiver-of-rights form, admit or deny any
allegations, or make any written or oral statement unless an
attorney and/or Union representative is personally present. These
are not complete guidelines—always consult with a union
representative and/or attorney.


When the employee makes the request for a union representative
to be present management has three options:

(I) it can stop questioning until the representative arrives.
(2) it can call off the interview or,
(3) it can tell the employee that it will call off the interview
unless the employee voluntarily gives up his/her rights to a union
representative (an option the employee should always refuse.)

The Role of a Union Representative

Employers will often assert that the only role of a union
representative in an investigatory interview is to observe the
discussion. The Supreme Court, however, clearly acknowledges a
representative’s right to assist and counsel workers during the

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
allowed to speak privately with the employee before the interview.
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 employee what to say but he may advise them on how to
answer a question.

What to Say if Management Asks Questions
That Could Lead to Discipline

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or
terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I request that
my union representative, officer, or steward be present at the
meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any

Know the Limits

Just as it’s important to know what your Weingarten rights are, it’s
also important to know the limits.

You are not entitled to have a steward present every time a
supervisor wants to talk to you. But if the discussion begins to
change into questioning that could lead to discipline, you have the
right to ask for your steward before the conversation goes any

If you’re called in to the supervisor’s office for an investigation,
you can’t refuse to go without your steward. All you can do is to
refuse to answer questions until the steward gets there and you’ve
had a chance to talk things over. I
you are called at home and asked the same kind of questions, you
have a right to insist on waiting to answer them in the presence of
a steward.

 Remember an investigatory
interview is not a "True Confessions"’  meeting or some
infomercial psychic doling out advice to an employee–it is a meeting
which could possibly lead to disciplinary action including removal
from the Company.


The Rules at a Glance

Under the Supreme Court's Weingarten decision, when an
investigatory interview occurs, the following rules apply:

The employee must make a clear request for union representation
before or during the interview. The employee cannot be punished
for making this request.


After the employee makes the request, the employer must
choose from among three options. The Employer must either:

  • Grant the request and delay questioning
    until the union representative arrives and has a chance to consult
    privately with the employee; or
  • Deny the request and end the interview
    immediately; or
  • Give the employee a choice of (1) having
    the interview without representation or (2) ending the interview.

If the employer denies the request for union representation, and
continues to ask questions, it commits an unfair labor practice
and the employee has a right to refuse to answer. The employer may
not discipline the employee for such a refusal.