Washington State Nurses Association union nurses have rights. Representation rights! To understand your representation rights, you also need to know what an investigatory interview is.
An investigatory interview is when you are questioned by your manager or director about any issue that you are involved with that could possibly lead to disciplinary action. This can include tardiness, overtime, patient complaints, peer complaints, etc. You should ask at the beginning of the meeting, “Is this a meeting that can lead to disciplinary action?” If they answer “Yes” then you have the right to ask for representation. If they say “No” and indicate that you don’t need anyone, listen carefully to what is being discussed. If it starts to feel like it could lead to discipline, you have the right to invoke your Weingarten rights.
Under the Supreme Court’s Weingarten decision, when an investigatory interview occurs, the following rules apply:
- The employee must make a clear request for union representation before or during the interview. The employee cannot be punished for making this request. (Note: Do not ask the employer, “do I need union representation?” It is up to you to make the statement that you want union representation.) Remember, management is not an appropriate representative, so if they offer you the nursing supervisor or someone else to sit with you, that is not adequate.
- After the employee makes the request, the employer must choose among three options. The employer must either:
- Grant the request and delay questioning until the union representative arrives and has a chance to consult privately with the employee; or
- Deny the request and end the interview immediately; or
- Give the employee a choice of: 1) having the interview without representation, or 2) ending the interview.
- If the employer denies the request for union representation and continues to ask questions, this is an unfair labor practice and the employee has the right to refuse to answer. The employee cannot be disciplined for a refusal to answer questions without union representation.
If called into a meeting with management, read the following (or present the Weingarten palm card) to the management when the meeting begins:
If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, I respectfully request that my union representative be present at this meeting. Without representation present, I choose not to participate in this discussion.
Frequently asked questions
Why do I need representation?
You need to take a representative from WSNA in for meetings that could lead to discipline. While the representative may not disrupt or obstruct the interview, management must allow the representative to speak and provide you with assistance and counsel. In addition, the representative should take detailed notes of what you say and what your manager says. Usually these meetings are emotional for the RN involved. After walking out of the director or manager’s office, often the RN doesn’t remember all that was said, how it was said, and what was agreed to, etc. Having your WSNA representative present can prevent later disputes about exactly what was actually said in the meeting. The representative can also help you clarify confusing questions.
Who can represent me?
You should first ask for your Local Unit Grievance Officers. To contact them, call WSNA or the officers directly. If the Grievance Officers are not available, one of the other Local Unit Officers can attend. You have the right to have a reasonable amount of time to get representation.
If they keep asking questions, can I leave?
No, stay at the meeting, but do not answer questions until your representative has a chance to arrive. Let them know, “I will listen but I’m going to withhold any comment until I can get a representative.”