Union workers have the right to have a union representative, shop steward, or a co-worker with them anytime they are questioned -- if they think that the questions could result in being disciplined or something else bad (like a bad evaluation or being assigned another job).
When you are called in, ask what the meeting is about. If you don't get a straight answer or you still believe that it could lead to discipline, you need to protect yourself and say that you have a right to have a representative or coworker with you. If you are being questioned, don't go into a meeting alone.
Workers do not have the right to a representative/witness if the meeting is only to tell them about discipline that has already been decided.
Non-union workers do not have the right to have a co-worker present when they are questioned. You don't have the same job protections as a union member, since you can still be fired with no good reason. Even though it's not a right, you can ask to have a co-worker with you. A witness and advisor can help.
Some public workers have the similar rights, even without a union.
You can contact the NLRB and file a charge if your rights are violated. Talk to your union first.
Why Weingarten Rights are important:
- When workers know their rights, bosses are more careful.
- A witness can make sure that the boss doesn't lie about what happened at the meeting.
- Having someone with you could make you act smarter: we all say stupid things when we're scared.
- Union members can only be disciplined or fired for "good cause," so it's important not to hurt the case in the interview.
What you should know:
- You must ask to have a co-worker, union representative or shop steward at the interview with you. You can ask before or at any point during the discussion. Ask directly what the meeting is about and if it could result in discipline. If your boss won't answer directly - you need representation.
- Your have a right to talk privately with your witness/representative.
- During the meeting, your witness/representative can: make points, bring out additional information, clarify what's being said, give you advice, object to confusing or intimidating behavior, and act as a witness.
- You have a right to know what the subject of the meeting is.
- Your boss must permit a reasonable delay to find a witness. Union members must use whatever shop steward is available.
- If your boss refuses your request for a representative, and asks you questions anyway, you don't have to answer.
What a boss can do when a worker asks for a representative:
- Agree to the meeting with the employee and representative.
- Decide not to interview the employee.
- Give the employee a choice of no interview (that s/he will decide about disciplining the employee without getting "the employee's side") or an interview without a representative.
If an employer refuses a request for a representative, the worker should keep saying during the interview that they want a representative. The employee might decide not to answer any questions.
How bosses get workers to give up representation:
- "If you're not guilty, you don't need a witness." If you believe this, watch a police show, where cops regularly get people to admit to things by pressuring or tricking them. Employees should tell their employer: if you're going to treat me fairly, you won't mind having a witness.
- The boss is vague or won't admit the meeting could result in discipline. If an employee is being investigated or asked to explain what they did, they should have a representative. Remember – employees can ask for a witness/representative at any time during the discussion.
- Says the representative can only be a silent witness during the interview. The representative's role is to make sure that important information is brought out and that the employee is treated fairly (surely the employer wants the same thing).
The role of the union leader during questioning:
- Insist on a reasonable delay of the meeting so that the employee can have a representative. The employer can insist on using whatever union leader is available.
- Before the meeting, ask the employer what the subject of the meeting is. Ask directly what the meeting is about and if it could result in discipline.
- Before the meeting begins, talk privately with the employee. This will ensure that you are familiar with the situation and you can advise the employee so that s/he answers questions in the best way. If necessary, you can interrupt the meeting to speak privately with the employee again.
- During the meeting, the witness/representative can:
- make points
- bring out additional information
- clarify what's being said and give advice
- object to confusing or intimidating behavior
- act as a witness and take notes