If you are in a bargaining unit, the union has the right to attend any “formal discussion” between you and one or more representatives of the agency concerning any grievance, personnel policy or practice, or other general condition of employment.
Normal shoptalk is not a formal discussion for this purpose. A meeting does not become a formal discussion unless the subject concerns a grievance or general conditions of employment. In the case of a grievance, the union must be invited to attend even if you are representing yourself and even if you prefer the union not be present.
The union may designate its representative and is allowed to participate by raising questions/comments/concerns, but it cannot disrupt the meeting. Specific rules apply to meetings in connection with an investigation. This provision is often referred to as employees’ “Weingarten” rights, based on a Supreme Court decision.
The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute establishes three conditions that must be met for a meeting to be considered a “Weingarten” meeting:
• one or more agency representatives are questioning a bargaining unit employee in connection with an investigation;
• the employee reasonably believes that the examination may result in a disciplinary action against himself; and
• the employee requests union representation.
Once all three conditions have been met, supervisors generally may not continue the examination without offering to allow representation. “Weingarten” rights are not applicable when management issues a disciplinary action—as opposed to asking questions when considering whether to take one. Additionally, the right does not come into play during performance counseling as this does not concern disciplinary matters but, rather, performance issues.