Ever wonder what your rights are when you get the dreaded call to appear at a meeting with your manager or someone from the human resources department? The answer is…well, it depends, so read on!
If you are a union member, you have the right to union representation during an “investigatory interview” if you reasonably believe the meeting might lead to discipline. These are your Weingarten rights, named after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that created this protection for union members. Employers violate a union member’s Weingarten rights if they proceed with an investigatory interview while refusing to honor the member’s request for union representation.
Most any meeting may be an “investigatory interview” that triggers Weingarten rights, provided the following occurs:
- A manager, representative of management, or supervisor wants to question an employee;
- The questioning requires the member to defend, explain, or admit misconduct or work performance issues, including absenteeism and tardiness;
- The employee reasonably believes that the investigation may result in discharge, discipline, demotion, or other adverse consequence to their job status or working conditions; AND
- The employee requests a union representative.
Not every meeting triggers Weingarten rights, and it can be tricky to determine if the meeting checks all the boxes to amount to an “investigatory interview.” If you are a union member, it is a good idea to ask for union representation. If you are denied union representation, keep track of everything that happens during the meeting and, as soon as the meeting is over, write detailed notes of everything that happened and contact your union representative and share what happened.
As of this writing (March 6, 2023), Weingarten rights only apply to union employees, but that has changed in the past, and whenever the presidential administration changes, there is a chance that the scope of Weingarten rights may change. For example, the NLRB recently held that strike replacement employees are entitled to Weingarten protections.
So, definitely speak with a lawyer to find out if you have Weingarten rights today. Meanwhile, the benefit of Weingarten rights is one of many reasons to remain #UnionStrong!