As railroad employees, most of us are covered under the terms of the Railway Labor Act (RLA). BRS members on the DTO are an exception to this as they work under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA includes a right not extended to RLA covered employees. At issue is what are commonly referred to as “Weingarten Rights.” Recent events on the DTO suggest their senior management may not be aware of these rights, but our members should be, which is the purpose of this article. Weingarten rights are derived from the 1975 Supreme Court case NLRB v. J. Weingarten. The ruling held that employees have the fundamental right to Union representation during any type of investigatory meeting. It was found that this constitutes “protected activity” within the scope of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
The important component a member must understand is this right can be invoked in circumstances you may not always recognize as “investigatory hearings”. Weingarten rights apply anytime you are subjected to any form of questioning (interrogation) which you reasonably suspect could result in discipline. Remember, unlike Miranda rights, you must make a verbal request for this right to be invoked. The supervisor grilling you is not obligated to inform you of this right. However, his/her refusal to allow it once invoked is an unfair labor practice which could have significant ramifications for the employer. Should you be denied this right after invoking it, please report the incident to your local chairman immediately.