Rights to Representation: Weingarten Rights
WHAT ARE WEINGARTEN RIGHTS?
A 1975 Supreme Court decision held that if management is going to conduct an investigatory interview with a worker which could lead to discipline, the worker has the right to have a Steward, Union officer, or Union staff member present for the meeting. This is so that management cannot coerce a worker into giving information during such a discussion. A steward or other union representative is also valuable as a third-party “to prevent a supervisor from giving a false account of the conversation” in the future. The worker at the center of the Supreme Court case was named “Weingarten,” so ever since, these rights to Union representation have been known as Weingarten Rights.
Here’s the key: You, the worker, must ask for a representative. The hospital does not have to tell you about these rights. You may request representation at any point during an interview, so if you did not think the conversation was going to be something relating to discipline, but it turned out that it was, you can claim these rights in the middle of the discussion.
Once you’ve asked for representation, management has three choices:
- Grant your request and delay the interview until a Union representative arrives;
- Deny your request and end the interview;
- Give you, the worker, the choice of either having the interview without representation or ending the interview.
If the hospital denies your request for representation and continues the meeting, you have the right to refuse to answer questions. Take detailed notes about what management says when they deny you representation, and call the Union office as soon as possible when the meeting is over.
If you’re asked into a meeting that could lead to discipline, say this, “If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined, or affect my personal working conditions, I request my UE Steward, officer or staff person be present at the meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions. These are my Weingarten Rights.”
Material for this article was adapted from Robert M. Schwartz’ The Legal Rights of Union Stewards and the UE Steward Handbook.