Weingarten Rights

In 1972, an employee who was a member of the Retail Clerks Union was accused by her employee, J. Weingarten, Inc., of not paying for some merchandise.  When the employer approached her to question her about the merchandise, she asked for a union representative to assist her.  The employer refused and kept questioning.  In the process of the questioning, it developed that the employee was not guilty of the conduct which the employer was accusing her of – but the employee made other statements about conduct which she thought was an accepted practice by most employees.  When Weingarten, Inc. headquarters confirmed her facts, the interrogation was ended and the employee left the store manager’s office.

 Though told to keep the matter to herself, the employee immediately spoke with her union steward and an unfair labor practice charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board.  The matter was resolved in 1975 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued the following guidelines:

1.            Your right to union representation is not automatic.  YOU MUST ASK FOR IT.  Your employer is not under a duty to advise you of your rights.

2.            You have to request the union representation from the person who is doing the questioning, not from your immediate supervisor or your union representative.  The questioner must be told that you do not want to proceed without union representation.

3.            You must have a reasonable belief that discipline will result from the investigatory meeting, i.e., designed to elicit answers to work related questions.  The right to representation is based on your belief, not anyone else’s in the situation.

4.            You are entitled to information from the employer regarding the subject of the meeting.

5.            You are entitled to consult with your union representative prior to the meeting.

6.            The employer has not duty to bargain with the union representative at an investigatory interview.  The union representative is present to assist the employee, and may attempt to clarify the facts for the employee as well.

7.            You do not have the right to a union representative if the interview is only for the purpose of informing you of discipline already decided upon the employer.  However, in that case, you only need to listen; you do not have to answer any further questions by the employer.

8.            The rule does not apply to the normal everyday conversations between a supervisor and an employee, which pertains to performance of job duties and normal work performance.

9.            The employer’s rights – once you request union representation, your employee has three options:

               a.            He can grant your request and bring in a union representative.

               b.            He can discontinue the interview and proceed with the employer’s own investigation without your participation.

               c.            The employer can offer you the choice of proceeding without union representation.

The U.S. Supreme Court established these guidelines because it believes that person may be unable, due to nervousness or fear, to express himself clearly when called to management’s office.  In today’s climate of suspicion of drug use by employees, you should be particularly alert to asserting your Weingarten Rights when questioned about drugs by an employer.  Therefore, it is important that you know, remember, and use your Weingarten Rights when necessary.

If you have any questions about your rights, please speak with your local officers and steward.

Workers normally use the following language to assert their Weingarten Rights: 

“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at the meeting.  Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions.”