[Appellate Update] Tx Sup. Ct holds no right to union rep during internal interview of firefighter

THE CITY OF ROUND ROCK v. RODRIGUEZ; No. 10-0666, (Tex. April 5, 2013)

In a 6-3 decision, the Court holds that unionized Texas public-sector workers do not have the right to have union representation during an internal investigation interview. In 2008 the Round Rock Fire Chief called Plaintiff Rodriguez into his office for an internal interview regarding a complaint.  Rodriguez asked for a representative, but was told “[s]ince this is an Internal Interview you may not be represented during our meeting; however, if a pre-disciplinary meeting is set following our meeting you would be eligible for representation at that time.” Later, during a pre-disciplinary meeting, Rodriguez failed to request union representation.  Rodriguez was suspended for five (5) days.  He and the Fire Fighters Association filed a declaratory judgment action alleging a violation of Tex. Labor Code §101.001.  The trial and appellate court found for Rodriguez.

The right to union representation in an investigatory interview derives from the United States Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Weingarten, 420 U.S. 251 (1975). However, under the plain text of §101.001, the Court held the Texas Legislature did not intent to grant that right to public-sector employees. It reversed and rendered.  The dissent reasoned that while the majority concedes the statute permits unionization, their interpretation precludes a prime attribute that makes the union worthwhile.

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