Do you have a right to a rep in a workplace disciplinary hearing? That depends

Question: 

When my supervisor pulls me into the conference room to “counsel” me — aka rip me to pieces — he always brings in the company’s human resources officer. He says it’s for “both of us,” but she sits there writing notes that make him look good and me look like a jerk. I’ve learned I cannot trust her or what she writes.

Things have been heading from bad to worse and I’ve been accused of something I absolutely did not do. I’ve been ordered to be present for an “investigative interview” tomorrow morning, and this HR person, who I absolutely don’t trust, plans to interview me. My wife tells me I can have a representative of my own present, who can take notes for me. Is this true?

Answer:

 While those who work in a union environment can have their shop steward sit in on disciplinary meetings, non-union employees don’t have this protection. Your wife refers to the National Labor Relations Board’s former “Weingarten” rule that extended unionized employees’ statutory right to a witness to non-union employees, who could then have a witness present during investigatory interviews that could reasonably result in discipline.

According to a May NLRB ruling, the National Labor Relations Act doesn’t grant non-union employees the right to have a witness present during an investigatory interview. Depending on your company’s policies, however, you may have the right to record this meeting on your smartphone. Alaska, along with 37 other states, allows face-to-face interviews to be recorded even if only one party (you) consents (AS 42.20.300).

Unless your organization has a specific policy against your recording meetings, you can thus record and later transcribe the full meeting. Then, if another individual presents a slanted version of what transpired, you’ll have proof concerning what actually occurred and was said.

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and Regional Director of Training & Business Consulting for “The Growth Company” an Avitus Group Company. Send questions to lynne@thegrowthcompany.com, follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or at http://www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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