Weingarten rights! Did you know that you have these rights during investigatory interviews with your employer? If you don't know, then you should know. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee is entitled to have a union representative present during any interview that may result in discipline. Weingarten rights are kind of like Miranda rights. Miranda gives citizens the right to have an attorney present for questioning by law enforcement officers. You've likely seen a television show where Miranda was mentioned or heard of someone invoking Miranda or it being violated in the news. Weingarten rights allow employees a representative but are unlike the right to have an attorney because employers, unlike the police, are not required to inform an employee of their rights under Weingarten, which is why employees need to know about this right.
Weingarten Rights help you protect your job. These rights apply only during investigatory interviews, however. What’s an investigatory interview? Often an investigatory interview occurs when superiors require an employee to defend, explain, or admit misconduct or work performance issues during a meeting. In that case, the employee’s responses may form the basis for discipline or discharge. To invoke Weingarten, the employee must reasonably believe that their responses could result in dismissal, discipline, demotion, or other adverse consequences.
Not every meeting or employer questioning is investigatory, leading to discipline.
An employee's request for a union representative can be denied in the following situations:
• Instructional meetings where an employee receives training or correction on work techniques. Talks of this nature generally do not lead to discipline.
• Meetings in which an employer informs an employee (or employees) of personnel policies. Often these meetings do not require employee interviewing and do not lead to discipline.
• Meetings where in advance the employee is told that no discipline or adverse employment action will result from the discussion.
• Meetings about disciplinary decisions that have already occurred. If an employer has made a final decision on disciplinary action, an appointment with an employee to inform them of that decision is not considered investigatory. In that same regard, if an employee initiates a meeting to discuss a disciplinary action they have experienced. That meeting is not investigatory because any discipline that the employee has experienced has already occurred.
Attend the Meeting
If you are invited to or called into a meeting that you believe will be investigatory, attend the meeting and request Association representation. If possible, in anticipation of the meeting, ask what the subject of the meeting is and whether the meeting is regarding something that could lead to your being disciplined. During the meeting, take copious notes. Repeatedly assert your right to have a union representative present for the discussion because of your belief your responses will lead to discipline. Remember you should not refuse to attend the meeting if you are denied your right to have a union representative present. Lastly, contact GAA ASAP if you have questions about your Weingarten rights or are subjected to an investigation.