This particular post was drafted by Michael P. DeRose. As stated in a previous post, Michael is a paralegal employed with the Law Offices of Arpaia & Crivelli, L.L.C. Michael will be leaving the office in August, 2008, for purposes of attending Law School in Michigan. While we are very sad to see him leave, we are excited that he has the opportunity to further his education and pursue his dream of becoming attorney. We look forward to his return as a law clerk in the summer of 2009, and truly wish him the very best in law school.
This is the first of two posts centered on the case of NLRB v. Weingarten, 420 U.S. 251 (1975).
The brave men and women who comprise the long list of New Jersey Public Safety Officers should maintain a solid foundation of knowledge in regard to the rights they possess within the institutions where they are employed. As such, a brief discussion of Weingarten Rights is in order.
The United States’ Supreme Court case known as NLRB v. Weingarten solidified the notion that unionized employees possess the right to obtain union representation during investigatory interviews. This principle applies to both private employee collective bargaining units and public employee collective bargaining units. “Investigatory interviews” as defined under Weingarten can pertain to criminal issues or departmental matters which may lead to discipline. However the invocation of Weingarten rights only applies to investigatory interviews conducted by a supervising authority within the organization where the subject of the interview is employed.
In particular to Public Safety Officers, investigatory interviews are regularly conducted by agents of an Internal Affairs Department or the Special Investigations Division of their respective organizations. Simply stated, an investigatory interview occurs when a supervising or investigatory authority questions a subordinate to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline. The supervising authority is also engaged in conducting an investigatory interview when they ask a subordinate to defend his or her conduct in a formal setting. Weingarten rights only apply to NJ Public Safety Officers who face the possibility of undergoing an investigatory interview.
It is both necessary and essential for law enforcement personnel and first responders to detect when a potential interview qualifies as “investigatory.” An important question to ask one’s self when uncertain of whether the interview is “investigatory” is: “could this interview or its fruits possibly lead to disciplinary action?” If the Public Safety Officer being questioned reasonably believes that the answer to this question is yes, he or she is entitled to have union representation present at the meeting before a question is posed. Also, it is important to note that the supervising authority conducting the investigatory interview is not compelled to advise the subject of his or her Weingarten rights. This is a common misconception that merits mention. It is the responsibility of the Public Safety Officer being questioned to invoke Weingarten to ensure representation is present during the investigatory interview. In the next post we will discuss Weingarten in more detail, and the effect of invoking the rights during an investigatory interview.