Employees do not have to be alone when they are questioned by an employer in a situation that might result in discipline. An employee’s right to representation in investigatory or predisciplinary meetings was established in a 1975 United States Supreme Court decision, NLRB v. Weingarten, Inc. The Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations has adopted the Weingarten rules for public employees covered by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 150E.
If you have a reasonable belief that the answers you give could result in your being disciplined, you have a right to union representation during the meeting.
Employees are entitled to Weingarten rights in the following situations:
- “Investigatory interviews,” in which the supervisor is seeking to elicit facts, to have the employee explain his or her conduct, to discover the employee’s “side of the story” or to obtain admissions or other evidence.
- A supervisor’s request for a written statement or written answers to interrogatories about an incident or accident in which the employee’s own conduct may be at issue.
- A meeting or discussion in which the employer either has not yet decided whether to impose discipline or is seeking information to support that decision.
Employees are not entitled to Weingarten rights in the following situations:
- When the meeting or discussion is merely for the purpose of conveying work instructions, training or needed corrections.
- When the purpose of the meeting is simply to inform the employee about a disciplinary decision that has already been made and no information is sought from the employee.
- When the employer has clearly and overtly assured the employee prior to the interview that no discipline or adverse consequences will result from the interview, provided the employer keeps that promise.
- When, after the employer notifies the employee that he or she is being disciplined, the employee initiates further discussion.
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