Real talk: There is nothing more despicable than a manager who “weaponizes” safety in the workplace. Not only is it inhuman but it violates AT&T’s Code of Business Conduct in several fun and exciting ways, not to mention written EH&S practices (Environmental Health & Safety). Suspected retaliation should be reported to the Ethics department (email@example.com); doing so causes HR to follow your boss’ disciplinary track for retaliatory behavior. This post is certainly not meant to suggest that the majority of managers do this; but, the ones who don’t do this, they know about and tolerate the ones who do..
If an employee reasonably believes they are being retaliated against by their boss via “safety inspection” they should use their Weingarten rights.
We’re not suggesting that the boss is not allowed to inspect you, just that they should not be trying to trip you up by asking questions whose answers can be used against you. Especially if you recently put $20.19 worth of gas in your truck as part of protected concerted activity that management already knew about!
If the boss refuses to provide you a steward, you have the right to refuse to answer questions. If you refuse and the boss threatens you with discipline for not answering (perhaps the dreaded “insubordination”) then he has just made the case for having a steward present for that conversation. In any case, you will feel better if you are shoulder to shoulder with a steward when retaliatory bosses come hunting after an embarrassing (yet legal!) job action.