Union employees have the right to representation in investigatory meetings. These rights have become commonly known as “Weingarten Rights” because they emanate from a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case which upheld a decision of the National Labor Relations Board. NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251 (1975). In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employees in a recognized bargaining unit have the right to union representation at investigatory interviews. These rights have since become known as Weingarten Rights.
The Supreme Court held that an employee, subjected to an investigatory interview, must make a clear request for union representation either before or during the interview. An employee cannot be penalized for making this request. Once an employee makes a request for union representation the employer can do one of three things.
(1) they can grant the request and wait for a union representation to arrive before the questioning begins;
(2) they can deny the request and discontinue any questioning; or
(3) the employer can offer the employee a choice as to whether they want to continue without a representative or end the interview.
If an employer denies the request for union representation, and continues to ask questions, it has committed what is called an “Unfair Labor Practice,” for which an employer can be penalized.
Be aware that these so called “Weingarten Rights” do not apply to any conversation between management and an employee. These rights only attach, if the interview to be conducted is an “investigatory” interview. That is, if an interview is for the purpose of fact finding and could lead to disciplinary action. If you find yourself being called in for an interview that you believe might lead to disciplinary action you should state the following immediately:
“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.”
It’s important to know your rights and how to assert them.