It is important to know and utilize your rights as a union member. Did you know that you have the right to Union representation during an investigatory interview? If you think that you are going to be interviewed by your supervisors, and that it could result in some kind of discipline, you have the right to union representation during that interview. But these “Weingarten rights” must be claimed by you, as your supervisor has no obligation to inform you of your right to Union representation.
What is an Investigatory Interview?
An investigatory interview is one in which a Supervisor questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his/her conduct. If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or discharge may result from what s/he says, the employee has the right to request Union representation.
An employee must state to the employer that he/she wants a Union representative present; the employer has no obligation to ask: the employee if she/he wants a representative.
When an investigatory interview occurs, the following rules apply:
Rule 1 – You must make a clear request for Union representation before or during the interview. You can’t be punished for making this request.
Rule 2 – After you make the request, your supervisor has 3 options. S/he must either:
- Grant the request and delay the interview 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
Rule 3 – If the supervisor denies your request and continues to ask questions, this is an unfair labor practice and you have the right to refuse to answer. You cannot be disciplined for such refusal but are required to sit there until the supervisor terminates the interview. Leaving before this happens may constitute punishable insubordination.
While this is an important right to have, it is not always applicable.
An employee has NO right to the presence of a Union representative where:
- The meeting is merely for the purpose of conveying work instructions, training, or communicating needed corrections in the employee’s work techniques.
- The employee is assured by the employer prior to the interview that no discipline or employment consequences can result from the interview.
- The employer has reached a final decision to impose certain discipline on the employee prior to the interview, and the purpose of the interview is to inform the employee of the discipline or to impose it.
- Any conversation or discussion about the previously determined discipline which is initiated by the employee and without employer encouragement or instigation after the employee is informed of the action.
Even in the above circumstances, you can still ask for representation. Most employers will permit a representative to attend even when not required to.