Weingarten Rights: Your Right to Representation
This term refers to your right to have union representation with you at any meeting with an administrator at which you have a reasonable expectation that discipline of any nature or dismissal could result. If you have been told that the meeting could result in a disciplinary action, or have reason to believe it could, respectfully request that a union representative be present. This is a right that you must assert in order to exercise; the administrator is not required to inform you of it. If you are denied union representation and choose to respond to questions asked, be as brief as possible and do not elaborate. If you choose not to answer, you may be charged with insubordination. If you were denied your statutory right to union representation, that fact would be used in any future defense.
Weingarten rights, as established in a 1975 United States Supreme Court decision — NLRB v. Weingarten, Inc. — guarantee an employee the right to union representation during an investigatory interview. The state Division of Labor Relations (formerly the state Labor Relations Commission) has adopted the Weingarten rules for public employees covered by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 150E. These rights are based upon private- and public-sector collective bargaining laws.
What situations give rise to Weingarten rights?
- Where the employee has a reasonable expectation that discipline may result — for example, where the meeting is part of the employer’s disciplinary procedure.
- Where the purpose of the interview or meeting is to elicit facts or the employee’s “side of the story” or to obtain admissions or other evidence to determine whether discipline is warranted or to support a disciplinary decision already made.
- Where the employee is required to explain or defend his or her conduct in a situation that the employee reasonably fears could affect his or her working conditions or job security.
- If a situation occurs that you believe could affect your employment, then you may be entitled to union representation. Do not be shy about this. Protect yourself!
What Situations Do Not give rise to Weingarten Rights?
- Where the meeting or discussion is merely for the purpose of conveying work instructions, training or needed corrections.
- Where the purpose of the meeting is to inform the employee about a disciplinary decision that has already been made and no information is sought from the employee.
- Where the employer has clearly and overtly assured the employee,prior to the interview, that no discipline or adverse consequences will result from the interview.
- Where the employee initiates further discussion after an employer has notified the employee of the potential for disciplinary action.
Your Weingarten Rights
An employee in a unionized workplace who is called into a meeting with his or her employer that may lead to disciplinary action is entitled to union representation upon request. Because the law does not specifically require a supervisor to inform employees of this right at or before such a meeting, the employee must state that he or she wants a union representative present. Once the request is made, the meeting must terminate until a representative is present. Faculty and staff cannot lawfully be disciplined for invoking this or any other union right.
Information taken from MTA Employee Guide Road Map for Beginning Educators (2012) and Road Map for MTA Higher Education Members (2013).