As a union member, you have a right to a union representative in an Investigatory Interview, i.e. a conversation which you reasonably believe might lead to discipline. These "Weingarten Rights" are like Miranda Rights--you can't be forced to answer any questions that could get you into trouble without a representative present. However, unlike with Miranda Rights, your supervisor does not need to inform you of them; you may need to request a representative.
The first union representative to contact in these situations is your steward. Your steward is a coworker who works nearby on campus and who has been trained to represent you in these situations. RAs and LAs: find your steward here. If you do not yet have a steward, you can request representation by contacting us here. You can also ask to have a coworker represent you.
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Weingarten Rights Q&A
Where are Weingarten Rights in the law?
Weingarten rights based upon three sources of law: (1) section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which gives employees the right to act concertedly for their mutual aid and protection; (2) the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed this right for unionized employees in NLRB v. J. Weingarten (1975), and (3) the National Labor Relations Board, which currently endorse Weingarten rights for union employees.
Will management remind me of my Weingarten rights?
Unfortunately, management has no obligation to remind you of your Weingarten rights or offer you a chance to find a representative before a meeting. You may need to assert this right on your own. You should do so professionally, but firmly.
Can I be disciplined for invoking my Weingarten rights?
Legally, no. It is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to discipline an employee for invoking their Weingarten rights. It is also illegal to force an employee to participate in a discplinary meeting without representation if the employee has requested it. If either of these things happen to you, you should contact your union representative right away.
Can I have a union representative present at any meeting I have with management?
You can always ask for a union representative, but you are only legally entitled to it if you believe that discipline might result from the meeting.
What if I'm told to be in my supervisor's office at 10am but I do not know the nature of the meeting?
You have the right to jnow what the subject of a meeting with your supervisor will be. You should ask your supervisor in advance what the meeting will be about, and if you believe that it may lead to discipline, you can request a union representative.
What if I ask for a union representative and my supervisor tells me that the meeting won't lead to discipine?
If your supervisor assures you that a meeting isn't disciplinary in nature, you no longer have a right to representation--that's no longer be a "reasonable belief." However, if during the meeting your supervisor begins asking questions that you believe could lead to discipline, you have the right to pause the meeting and request representation before continuing.
What if my supervisor and I are having a routine work meeting or casual conversation, but the topic suddenly changes and they start asking questions that I believe might lead to discipline?
You have the right to request a union representative at the point you believe you are being asked questions which could result in discipline, even if it was not the point of the meeting.
What if a supervisor denies my request for a union representative?
If you are denied a union representative and are still asked questions, the Employer is committing an unfair labor practice. You can refuse to answer further questions and can't be disciplined for doing so. You should contact your union representative immediately if this happens.
If I answer questions without a union representative present, can my answers be used against me in a disciplinary hearing?
Yes, any questions you answer may be used against you, even if you do not have a union representative present. This is true even if you have requested representation and (illegally) denied it. If you are denied representation after asking it, you should refuse to answer any questions.
Can the union representative get me out of trouble if I actually broke a rule?
You can still face discipline for knowingly breaking a rule or behaving in a manner that is unprofessional or unsafe. A union representative isn’t a “get out of jail free card,” and they have no legal right to tell your supervisor what to do. They are there to support you and ensure that management follows the standard process and treats you fairly. They can also help you appeal a decision if you think the discipline you received was unfair or out of the ordinary.
Steward's/Union Rep's Role in an Investigatory Interview
In an Investigatory Interview, a union rep/steward has the ability to:
Serve as a witness to prevent a supervisor from later giving a false account of the conversation (including by taking notes during the meeting).
Object to intimidation tactics or confusing questions.
Advise an employee on how to best respond to a supervisor's questions.
Warn the employee against losing their temper.
Discourage an employee from informing on others.
Raise extenuating factors and question whether an employee had knowledge of the rule that they are presumed to have broken.
When a union rep/steward arrives at the meeting:
The supervisor or manager must inform the steward of what the interview is about and what type of misconduct is being investigated.
The steward must be allowed to have a private meeting with the employee before questioning begins.
The steward can speak during the interview, but cannot insist that the interview be ended.
The steward can object to confusing or harassing questions and can request that the question be clarified so that the employee understands what is being asked.
The steward can advise the employee not to answer questions that are abusive, misleading, badgering, or harassing.
When questioning ends, the steward can provide information to justify the employee’s actions.