Know your Weingarten Rights
Your manager calls you into her office,
|Don't go it alone. Use your Weingarten Rights.
shuts the door and asks you to sit down. She questions you about the way you handled a certain situation and begins to make accusations. You start to feel anxious and begin to wonder whether you could face disciplinary action.
It’s time to invoke your Weingarten Rights.
Based on the 1975 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vs. Weingarten,* union employees are entitled to have union representation at meetings with supervisors that are investigatory or that could lead to disciplinary action. These rights have become known as the Weingarten Rights.
If you are called into a meeting,
always ask the purpose of the meeting. If you believe it is an investigatory meeting that could lead to disciplinary action against you, ask for union representation (Weingarten Rights). The meeting should not be held until you can reasonably arrange to have representation at the meeting.
You have a right to union representation at any point during the meeting when you believe that the matters being discussed are investigatory in nature and might lead to disciplinary action against you. The meeting should be suspended until you have reasonable time to arrange for union representation.
To invoke your Weingarten Rights, say this: “If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my working conditions, I request that my union representative be present."
When you make the request for a union representative to be present, management has two options:
1. It can stop questioning until the representative arrives.
2. It can call off the interview and proceed with the investigation without the benefit of the employee’s input.
If the manager does not agree to your request for a union representative, attend the meeting anyway, but say: “Without representation, I will not answer any questions."
Managers will often claim 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 before an investigatory interview, management must inform the union representative of the subject of the questioning. The union representative must also be allowed to speak privately with the employee before the meeting and at any time during the discussion. 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 cannot tell the employee what to say – but he or she may advise them on how to answer a question. At the end of the interview the union representative can add information to support the employee’s case.
Don’t be afraid to exercise your rights!
Here it is in a nutshell - (Download a handy card with this info)
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR SUPERVISOR CALLS YOU INTO A MEETING
BEFORE THE MEETING:
1. Find out what the meeting is about. Your manager is required to tell you.
2. Request that a union representative go with you. You have the right to union representation during an interview if you believe the investigation might result in discipline.
3. To exercise this right, you must request representation. Say:“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my working conditions, I request that my union representative be present."
4. If the supervisor does not agree to your request for a union representative, attend the meeting anyway, but say: “Without representation, I will not answer any questions.”
DURING THE MEETING:
1. Take notes.
2. Take a break if you need to talk with your representative.
3. If asked to sign papers you disagree with, write: “My signature means only that I have seen this. It does not mean that I agree with it.”
AFTER THE MEETING:
1. Write down to the best of your recollection everything that was said/discussed.
2. Contact your union president or grievance chair immediately if they were not present during the meeting.
3. Consider whether or not to grieve or write a rebuttal.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’VE BEEN ACCUSED:
• Contact your union president or grievance chair immediately.
• Don’t admit guilt or accept any blame.
• Don’t quit or sign any papers or agreements.
• Don’t agree to pay any expenses.
• Avoid public statements.
• Don’t discuss the matter with anyone except your union representative.
• Keep copies of all correspondence & papers.
• Make written records of any meetings, with details & names.
WHEN IN DOUBT:
Contact your local union president or another local union officer.
*The Weingarten case is based on an employee who worked at a store lunch counter as a sales person who was a member of the Retail Clerks Union. She was summoned to an interview with supervisors and questioned about failing to pay full price for a box of chicken she had purchased. The employee asked for the presence of a union representative several times but was refused by the manager each time. The employee reported what had happened to her shop steward and other union representatives. As a result, an unfair labor practice proceeding was filed before the NLRB and the ruling in favor of the employee was appealed numerous times until going before the high court.)