San Bernardino County Public Defender (2009) PERB Decision No. 2058-M (Issued on 9/03/09)
This was a fairly typical Weingarten case. In order to establish a violation of the right to union representation, the charging party must demonstrate that: 1) the employee requested representation; 2) for an investigatory meeting; 3) which the employee reasonably believed might result in disciplinary action; and (4) the employer denied the request. Here, the employee alleged that she was forced to attend an investigatory interview where she was denied union representation. The employer’s main defense was that the meeting was not investigatory in nature.
In the proposed decision, the ALJ commented that the employee satisfied the first element when she “at least expressed her reluctance to attend the meeting without union representation.” In its decision, the Board found the ALJ’s statement “inconsistent with long-standing PERB precedent that requires employees to affirmatively request union representation in order to invoke their rights to representation at an investigatory interview. Instead, the Board held that, “expressing reluctance to attend an investigatory interview without union representation is insufficient, standing alone, to invoke the right to union representation.”
This decision isn’t particularly ground-breaking. It’s always been the case that an employer has no obligation to offer an employee a union representative if the employee doesn’t ask for one. This case just makes it clear that the request from the employee must be explicit.