Stewards are the first line of defense in protecting employees’ rights in the workplace and ensuring that the collective bargaining agreement is enforced.
As the SEA representative (steward), your basic rights during an investigatory interview follow:
Note: Weingarten Rights do not apply during a supervisory review of the employee’s work.
- The supervisor or manager must inform the steward of the subject matter of the interview – they must disclose the type of misconduct or violation being investigated.
- The steward must be allowed to have a private meeting with the employee before questioning begins. It also may be possible to “caucus” for private meetings during the interview.
- The steward may speak during the interview but cannot end the interview.
- The steward may object to a confusing question and may request clarification of the question. It is important that the employee understands what is being asked.
- The steward cannot advise the employee to refuse to answer questions. However, the steward can advise the employee not to answer questions that are abusive, misleading, badgering, or harassing.
- When the questioning ends, the steward can choose to provide management with information explaining or justifying the employee’s conduct. Always discuss this possibility with the employee before the meeting.
Below is a comprehensive list of stewards across all worksites. It will be updated monthly.
WEINGARTEN RIGHTS AND STEWARDS
Thanks to a United States Supreme Court decision in NLRB v J. Weingarten (1975), an employee has the right to ask for union representation if he or she believes a supervisory meeting could lead to disciplinary action. These rights are known as “Weingarten Rights” and stewards serve as union representatives. A steward is allowed to be present during a Weingarten interview, which is defined as any meeting between a management official and a bargaining unit member that may lead to disciplinary action even if there is no formal investigation underway.
As a steward, you must inform and educate your members about these rights. It is important for them to understand and remember these rights. Management has no obligation to remind an employee of their Weingarten rights. If an employee does not ask for union representation, they are essentially waiving their right to it.
In regard to investigatory interviews, employers often assert that the only role of union representatives is to observe and, if the representative chooses, take notes. This is not true. The union representative must be allowed to advise and assist the employee. Below is an explanation of these duties along with a list of possible scenarios to offer further guidance on an employee’s Weingarten Rights.