Intro: 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.
Summary: 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
Management 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
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.
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 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 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 questions."
Know the Limits
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.