Suspension Threat to Union Rep Unlawful

Weingarten rights permit employees to have a union representative attend an investigative interview the employee reasonably believes may result in discipline. The union representative can assist the interviewee. But how much assistance can be rendered was recently litigated when a manufacturer threatened a union steward with suspension for using notes during an investigatory meeting.

The union steward met with the employee before the interview and took notes. While the company questioned the employee, the steward showed his notes to the employee who began reading the notes aloud. This prompted the supervisor to instruct the steward to close the book. The steward refused, and the supervisor threatened him with a suspension. At hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) explained that the company could insist on hearing the employee’s account of what happened and found that the company disciplined the steward for giving the employee a prepared response, not for taking notes during the interview. The Board disagreed and reversed the ALJ.

An employee’s Weingarten rights extend beyond simply having a union representative present during an interview. Representatives are, in fact, allowed to represent the person being interviewed.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at maustin@ralaw.com.

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