(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has again prevailed in protecting union and employee Weingarten rights in all Inspector General examinations. Under Weingarten, federal employees, who believe an examination may result in disciplinary action, are entitled to union representation if requested.
In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in AFGE’s favor (NASA v. FLRA, 527 U.S. 299), recognizing the right of federal employee unions to represent bargaining unit employees in interrogations by their employer’s office of Inspector General.
Following AFGE’s Supreme Court victory, the Department of Justice filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, maintaining that the Supreme Court’s decision did not apply to Inspectors General criminal investigations
The U.S. Court of Appeals, in its decision [Department of Justice v. FLRA and AFGE Local 709, No. 00-1433 (10-9-01)], recognized that there was no way to categorize an investigation as criminal or administrative, as they sometimes parallel, overlap and evolve during the course of an investigation. Indeed "the results of inspections, when no criminal proceedings ensue, are routinely turned over to management for possible use in disciplinary action." Thus, the Weingarten right applies whether an interview is characterized by an IG as criminal or administrative.
“Federal agencies will no doubt continue attempts to carve limitations on federal employees’ Weingarten rights,” National President Bobby L. Harnage stated. “AFGE will remain vigilant in defending this critical right of union representation.”
The American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, is the largest union for government employees, representing 600,000 federal workers in the United States and overseas, as well as employees of the District of Columbia. A copy of the court’s ruling is available on AFGE’s Web site at www.afge.org.