Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weingarten is your friend

Did you know that if you're working at a Guild shop, you have the right to insist on having a Guild representative present when you're being disciplined by management?

Click on the graphic to link to a PDF of the Guild's Weingarten wallet card that we give out to new members.

Your so-called "Weingarten rights," named after the 1975 U.S. Supreme Court decision in NLRB vs. Weingarten, can (and should) be invoked whenever you are called in for an "investigatory interview". 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.

You should request your Weingarten rights before you answer any questions about your work performance. If (for example) management asks you why you were late to work, or calls you in to tell you the director didn't like your work, you have the right to say something like this:

If my responses to your questions could lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or adversely affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that you call my Guild representative. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to answer any questions.

When you request your Weingarten rights, management has three options:

  1. They can call off the interview;

  2. They can stop questioning until the representative arrives. If the Guild rep is not immediately available, management must have a compelling reason to insist on continuing the interview rather than postponing it;

  3. They can tell you that they will call off the interview unless you voluntarily give up your rights to a Guild representative (an option you should always refuse).

When the Guild rep arrives, you will have the right to speak with him before the interview. While the interview is in progress the rep cannot tell you what to say, but he may advise you on how to answer a question. During the questioning, the rep can interrupt to clarify a question or to object to confusing or intimidating tactics. At the end of the interview the Guild rep can add information to support your case.

Although you have the right to Guild representation, management does not have to inform you of it before they start the interview -- so it's up to you to request it. That being said, in our experience many (but not all) Guild shops are aware of Weingarten, and in fact it's increasingly common for Guild-shop management to give us a "heads up" so we can be present at disciplinary meetings. Just don't count on it.

And one last very important point. In 2004, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that employees of non-unionized companies do not have Weingarten rights. Something to remember the next time someone sounds off that labor unions are worthless.

Here's an interesting quiz that answers some more detailed questions about how Weingarten rights work.


Anonymous said...

Do Weingarten rights apply during the 90 day probation period?

Jeff Massie said...

I don't see any reason why they wouldn't.

Jeff Massie said...

I just talked to our lawyer who agreed with my above opinion (that is, that any disciplinary meeting for a probationary employees would be covered by Weingarten).

Let me point out that neither Weingarten nor the CBA require that the employer have a face-to-face meeting with an employee who is in danger of disciplinary action. However, if the employer calls for such a meeting, your rights under Weingarten apply regardless of your status.

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