One of the biggest questions we receive from members are questions concerning Weingarten Rights. This rules gives employees the right to request Union representation during investigatory meetings. These rights were established by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1975 case, NLRB vs J. Weingarten company. The courts ruled these rights are protected activity within the scope of section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Should you invoke your Weingarten Rights during a meeting that could lead to discipline? Absolutely!
Under the Act the following rules apply:
Rule 1– The “Employee” must make the request before or during the meeting. Under the law you cannot be punished for making this request, nor is the “employer” obligated to offer you Union representation.
Rule 2– After the request the supervisor has 3 options…
- Grant the request and delay the interview until the Steward arrives
- Deny the request and terminate the interview or
- Give the Employee a choice of having the interview without representation (an option that should be refused)… or end the interview.
Rule 3– If the supervisor denies the request and continues to ask questions, this is an unfair labor practice and the employee has the right to refuse answering questions.
The employee who has the right to a Weingarten representative can select a particular person to attend the meeting, and the employer is obligated to provide the person, absent “extenuating circumstances.” Extenuating circumstances justifying denial of particular representative usually have to do with the representative’s availability. The employer does not have to wait for days before the selected representative becomes available. However, waiting for a reasonable amount of time until the representative becomes available might be required, particularly if there is no urgency. If the employee’s request for a particular person to act as representative is reasonable under all the circumstances, then the request should be granted. If the requested Steward is not available, management does not have to delay the investigation if other Union Stewards are available.
The Steward is NOT restricted to be a silent witness and by law is allowed to assist and counsel. Stewards do not have the right to tell the employee not to answer questions.
A steward has a protected right to demand admission to a Weingarten interview. However, once the request is made, the employee being interviewed must indicate a desire for the steward’s presence. If the employee states that he or she wishes to be interviewed alone, the steward must leave.
So what happens when the Steward arrives?
- Management must inform the steward of the subject of the interview
- The Steward has the right to take the member aside for private discussion prior to mtg
- The Steward may interrupt to clarify questioning or object to confusing questions
- The Steward may also add information at the end to support your case
- The Steward is also present to witness and take notes
Things not to do
- Never leave the interview if you have requested representation until allowed to do so
- Never deny answering questions. If you don’t recall then state that
- Never lose your temper during the interview
To invoke your Weingarten Rights simply state something to this effect, “If this discussion could lead to discipline I request Union representation”. There is no harm in asking for Union representation so if you’re unsure of these rights, it is recommended you consult with a Steward prior to the meeting!