If you find yourself being questioned by supervisors and you are worried about getting in trouble, it is important to know your rights and exercise them.
In the 1975 case NLRB v. J. Weingarten Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court declared that unionized employees have the right to have a steward present during a meeting with management when the employee believes the meeting might lead to disciplinary action being taken against him/her. This case applies to workers in the private sector. Most public employees have similar rights, but the rules vary from state to state, so check your state’s labor laws.
Weingarten rights apply during investigatory interviews when a supervisor is questioning an employee to obtain information that could be used as grounds for discipline. When an employee believes such a meeting may lead to discipline, he/she has the right to request union representation.
These basic Weingarten rights stem from the Supreme Court’s decision:
- The employee must request representation before or during the meeting.
- After an employee makes the request, the supervisor has these choices:
- grant the request and wait for the union representative’s arrival;
- deny the request and end the meeting immediately; or
- give the employee the choice of either ending the meeting or continuing without representation.
- If the supervisor denies the request and continues to ask questions, the employee has a right to refuse to answer. In addition, the supervisor is committing an unfair labor practice.
Sample Weingarten Card
Know and use this statement to exercise your right to union representation:
“If the discussion in this meeting could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or impact on my personal working conditions, I request that my steward, local officer or union representative be present. Without union representation, I choose not to answer any further questions at this time.
This is my right under a Supreme Court decision called Weingarten (or cite a state law).”