If you are called to a meeting with administration in which you reasonably believe that disciplinary action may be taken based on your answers to their questions, you have the right to have a union representative present during this meeting. This is known as Weingarten Rights. The representative may be a union official, such as a steward or an officer, or the representative may simply be a colleague who is also in the union.

The Second Circuit (Connecticut, New York and Vermont) in Uniform Sanitation II said that public employees “subject themselves to dismissal if they refuse to account for their performance of their public trust, after proper proceedings, which do not involve an attempt to coerce them to relinquish their constitutional right” (625). After proper proceedings has been interpreted as a requirement for the employer to inform the employee of their right for representation.

Because UCHC administrators have a history of failing to follow employer/employee rights, the union advises the following:

  • Before the meeting or during questioning, you must make an assertive request for union representation.
  • Once you make the assertive request, the administration has three options – they may grant the request, deny the request but end the meeting, or give you the choice of having the meeting without the representative or ending the meeting.
  • If you find yourself in the meeting waiting for the representative and the questioning continues, simply say, “I have nothing to say until my representative is present.”

Once the union representative arrives, you will be obligated to answer questions. If you believe that the answers to the questions may lead to criminal misconduct, because you are a state employee, you may invoke your Garrity Rights.

Garrity Rights arise from the case of Garrity v. New Jersey (1966) in which the Supreme Court ruled that public employees could not be forced, under threat of discipline, to violate the principles of compulsory self-incrimination. This prevents the police from using answers to employer questions in a criminal investigation.

Once again, employees are required to assert their Garrity Rights, which means you would have to refuse to answer a question due to self-incrimination. In this case, the employer must:

  • Give a direct order to answer the question.
  • Make the question specific, directly and narrowly related to the employee’s duty or fitness for duty.
  • Advise the employee that the answer will not and cannot be used against him/her in a criminal proceeding, nor the fruits of those proceedings.
  • Allow union representation if the employee also asserts their Weingarten Rights.