Here’s a summarized version of the question that came into FELTG headquarters:

I run a monthly staff meeting with the employees I supervise. They are bargaining unit employees. I received a request from a union rep to attend the staff meetings. I asked him the nature or reasons for his attendance, and he told me: “The union has a right to attend any staff meeting.” He sent a reference to 5 U.S.C. 7114 as his justification.

I need some advice. To my knowledge, no investigation has been launched or a grievance filed, so I’m confused as to why he needs to be present in the meeting.

Is this union rep correct? Can he attend a staff meeting without being invited by an employee and sit in as an observer whenever he wants?

Our perfunctory answer is: No. The union can propose that right and then negotiate to try to get it into the contract, but the statute says nothing about requiring management to allow a union representative into every single work meeting.

By law, there are two occasions when there are rights for a union rep to be in a meeting:

– Weingarten: If a management official (e.g., you) is questioning a bargaining unit employee, and that employee might be disciplined for misconduct, IF the employee requests a union rep, he has that right. Once the rep is in the meeting, he can speak on behalf of the employee, but not control your questioning. This is a statutory employee right.

– Formal Discussion:  If a management official is meeting with bargaining unit employees to discuss working conditions (e.g., how to apply for annual leave around a holiday), the manager must notify the union in advance of the meeting and the topic and allow a rep to be present if the union wants to attend and participate. This is a statutory union right.

Union and management sometimes negotiate to allow union reps into other sorts of meetings (e.g., safety meetings). If that has happened, it would be part of the union contract.

We encouraged our faithful reader to get training on this topic, as one misplaced word by a single management official when working with a union can really mess things up.

FELTG is offering a 60-minute webinar on Aug. 22, titled What Supervisors Should Know About Official Time, the final class in our Supervisory Webinar series. Register here. Or, for a more detailed training, you can attend one or more days of FLRA Law Week, running from Sept. 18-22. The Sept. 19 session will include a module on Meetings. Register here.

Have a question? Ask FELTG.

The information presented here is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contacting FELTG in any way/format does not create the existence of an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

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