Union Representation During Investigatory Interviews

Joyce B. Robinson

July 1, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

Postal workers should know both their rights and the role of shop stewards during questioning by a postal or acting supervisor (204B), manager, postmaster, officer in charge, postal inspector and/or office of inspector general (OIG) agent.

What are Weingarten Rights?

“Weingarten Rights” are the rights of employees to have union representation in investigatory interviews. These rights were announced by the United States Supreme Court in their decision in the 1975 case NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc.

Employees have Weingarten Rights only during investigatory interviews. In The Legal Rights of Union Stewards, author Robert M. Schwartz defines an investigatory interview as when: “(1) management questions an employee to obtain information; and (2) the employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or other adverse consequences may result.”

Management is not required to inform the employee of his/her “Weingarten Rights” – the employee must ask for union representation during the investigatory interview on their own. When an employee believes they may be subject to discipline during investigatory interviews, they should request a steward or a union representative and remain silent until they have consulted with them.

Advice to Follow When Questioned During Investigatory Interviews

If questioned by an OIG agent(s) or by postal inspector(s), even if they believe that they are not guilty of any wrongdoing, employees should do the following:

  • Remain calm and correctly identify yourself.
  • Request a steward, a union representative, or an attorney as appropriate and remain silent until you have consulted with them.
  • Do not sign any forms waiving your rights.
  • Do not agree to a polygraph (lie detector) test.
  • Do not write or sign any typewritten statements or make oral remarks without consulting with a steward, a union representative, or an attorney, as appropriate.
  • Do not physically resist arrest or search of your person or property.
  • Request to see a search warrant. If a search warrant is not available, inform the OIG agent(s) or postal inspector(s) that you do not consent to the search.
  • Ask, “Am I a suspect in a criminal matter?” If the answer is “Yes,” remain silent until you consult with an attorney.
  • Do not deny or admit to any allegations without consulting with steward, a union representative or an attorney, as appropriate.

Stewards or Union Representatives Rights

During Investigatory Interviews During investigatory interviews, stewards or union representatives should prevent management from coercing employees into confessions of misconduct. Before the interview, as Schwartz writes, the steward must be allowed to have a private meeting with the employee, and management must provide the subject of the interrogation to the union representative if requested.

  • During questioning, the union representative has the rights to:
  • Interrupt to clarify a question or to object to confusing or intimidating tactics.
  • Serve as a witness to prevent a supervisor from giving a false account of the conversation.
  • Caution an employee to beware of the “good guy, bad guy routine” and to never fall into their trap when one OIG agent or inspector acts as the bad guy, the other as the good guy to con you in believing that they are trying to help you.
  • Advise an employee on when to stop speaking and to consult with an attorney.

In closing, never allow postal management, OIG agents and/or postal inspectors to intimidate you. Always refuse to answer questions unless a steward, a union representative or an attorney, is present. What you say will definitely be used against you!

Resource: The Legal Rights of Union Stewards by Robert M. Schwartz, which may be purchased online at labornotes.org/store/legal-rights-union-stewards.

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