Employee Rights During Interrogations
Postal employees are subject to investigation by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and/or Postal Inspection Service for off-duty as well as on-duty offenses. Generally, off-duty non-postal offenses that are subject to investigation include serious acts of criminal violence; use of firearms or dangerous weapons in the commission of a crime; grand larceny, burglary, embezzlement, or robbery, and sale or possession of narcotics or dangerous drugs. Other off-duty non-postal offenses may also result in investigations.
If you are questioned by one or more OIG agents or Postal Inspectors, even if you believe you are not guilty of any wrongdoing, you should:
- Remain calm;
- Correctly identify yourself;
- Request a union representative or an attorney, as appropriate;
- Remain silent until you have consulted with a steward or an attorney;
- Don’t physically resist arrest or search of your person or property;
- Request to see a search warrant. If a search warrant is not available, inform the OIG agents or postal inspectors that you do not consent to a search;
- Ask, “Am I a suspect in a criminal matter?” If the answer is, “Yes,” exercise your rights to remain silent until you consult with an attorney;
- Do not deny or admit to any allegations without consulting with a union representative, or an attorney;
- Do not sign any form waiving your rights, and
- Do not write or sign any statements or make oral remarks without consulting with a union representative or an attorney.
Know Your Weingarten Rights
The right of employees to have union representation at investigatory interviews was announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1975 case (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251, 88 LRRM 2689). These rights have become known as the “Weingarten Rights.”
- Employees have “Weingarten Rights” only during investigatory interviews, when a supervisor questions an employee to obtain information that could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his or her conduct. If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or other adverse consequences may result from what he or she says, the employee has the right to union representation.
- Management is not required to inform employees of their “Weingarten Rights;” it is the employee’s responsibility to make the request for representation.
When the employee requests a shop steward or a union representative, management has three options:
- Grant the request and wait until the union representative arrives,
- Discontinue the interview, or
- Offer the employee the option of continuing the interview without a union representative. Never accept this option; remain silent until you have representation.
An agent from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) or the Postal Inspection Service will often assert that the only role of a union representative during an investigatory interview is to observe the discussion. However, the Supreme Court clearly acknowledges a representative’s right to assist and counsel employees during interviews.
The Supreme Court has also ruled that during an investigatory interview management must inform the union representative of the subject of the interrogation. The representative must be allowed to speak privately with the employee before the interview. During the questioning, the steward can interrupt to clarify a question or to object to confusing or intimidating tactics. He or she can advise the employee when to stop answering questions and to consult with an attorney.
Never allow OIG agents or Postal Inspectors to intimidate you. Beware of the “good guy, bad guy routine,” where one OIG agent or inspector acts as the bad guy and the other as the good guy and tries to con you in believing that he or she is trying to help you. Don’t fall into their trap; refuse to answer questions unless a union representative or an attorney is present. What you say will definitely be used against you!