What is an
Employees have Weingarten rights only during
investigatory interviews. An investigatory
interview occurs when a supervisor questions an
employee to obtain information that could be
used as a basis for discipline or asks an
employee to defend his or her conduct. If an
employee has a reasonable belief that discipline
or other adverse consequences may result from
what he or she says, the employee has a right to
request union representation.
Shop-floor conversations: Not
every management-initiated discussion is an
investigatory interview. For example, a foreman
may talk to a worker about the proper way to do
a job. Even if the boss asks questions, this is
not an investigatory interview because the
possibility of discipline is remote. The same is
true of routine conversations to clarify work
assignments or explain safety rules.
Nevertheless, even an ordinary shop-floor
discussion can change its character if the
supervisor is dissatisfied with the employee's
answers. If this happens, the employee can
insist on the presence of a union representative
before the conversation goes any further.
When a supervisor calls a worker to the office
to announce a warning or other discipline, is
this an investigatory interview affording the
worker a right to union representation? The NLRB
says no, because the employer is merely
announcing a previously arrived-at decision and
is not questioning the worker. Such a meeting,
however, can be transformed into an
investigatory interview if the supervisor begins
to ask questions to support the decision.
Note: An employer that has followed a past
practice of allowing stewards to be present when
supervisors announce discipline, must maintain
the practice during the contract term. Refusing
to allow a steward to attend would constitute an
unlawful unilateral change.
You may be familiar with the "Miranda warnings"
given by police. The Miranda warnings notify
criminal suspects of their rights, including the
right to a lawyer and to remain silent.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not impose
a notice requirement in its Weingarten decision.
Employers have no obligation to inform workers
of their right to request union representation.
This is the Union's job.
Shop Stewards should explain Weingarten
rights to all employees they represent. A good
way to get the word out is to distribute
wallet-sized cards saying the following:
"If this discussion could in
any way lead to my being disciplined
or terminated, or affect my personal
working condition, I respectfully
request that my union
representative, officer, or steward
be present at the meeting. Without
representation, I choose not to
answer any questions."
On the other side of the card, print information
about the union, such as office address,
telephone numbers and the names of officers.
Tell members to present the card whenever they
fear that what they say may affect their
Rights of Stewards
Employers often assert that the only role of a
steward at an investigatory interview is to
observe the discussion, in other words to be a
silent witness. The Supreme Court, however,
clearly acknowledged a steward's right to assist
and counsel workers during the interview.
Decided cases establish the following
When the steward arrives, the supervisor must
inform the steward of the subject matter of the
interview, i.e. the type of misconduct for which
discipline is being considered (theft, lateness,
The steward must be allowed to take the worker
aside for a private pre-interview conference
before questioning begins.
The steward must be allowed to speak during the
interview. However, the steward does not have
the right to bargain over the purpose of the
The steward can request that the supervisor
clarify a question so that the worker can
understand what is being asked.
After a question is asked, the steward can give
advice on how to answer.
When the questioning ends, the steward can
provide additional information to the
It must be emphasized that if the Weingarten
rules are complied with, stewards have no right
to tell workers not to answer questions, or to
give false answers. Workers can be disciplined
if they refuse to answer questions.
compiled from various Internet Sources