Supervisors should cultivate direct relationships with their staff, building trust and increasing engagement. However, there are certain situations when employees are entitled to union or employee representation.

Situations when employees are entitled to representation

Employees are entitled to union or association representation in the following situations:

  • Employee grievances: The union or association has the right to represent the grievant(s) in meetings with the employer.
  • Disciplinary meetings:  When the employee has a “reasonable” belief a meeting with a supervisor may result in discipline. Normally such meetings would be limited to pre-determination hearings or investigative hearings.

Rights to Union representation in cases where there is reason to believe discipline may be issued are called “Weingarten rights,” so named after a case heard by the US Supreme Court in 1975 (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251,88 LRRM 2689). For more information, read this article by the Society of Human Resource Management on Weingarten Rights.

The Supreme Court also ruled that during an investigatory interview/predetermination hearing, management must inform the union representative of the subject of the investigation.

Though employees are entitled to representation, they are not entitled to a particular representative. However, such requests should generally be accommodated when it will not cause a delay in the process.

Responding to requests for representation

When an employee makes a request for union or association representation during an investigatory interview or predetermination hearing, management has three options:

  • Stop questioning until the representative arrives
  • Call off and reschedule the interview or hearing
  • Tell the employee the interview or hearing will be called off unless the employee voluntarily gives up their right to a union representative

If interviews uncover disciplinary issues

In some cases there is no reason to believe discipline may result from an investigatory interview, but an employee gives information which may cause them to be subject to discipline. In these cases, the interview should be halted, and the supervisor should inform the employee of their right to representation. If the employee wants representation, the interview should be paused or rescheduled until a representative can be present.

What about non-represented employees?

As a progressive employer, the City honors requests for representation by non-represented employees.