Friday, August 2, 2013

PERB: Sheriff’s Office Must Meet and Confer Over Peace Officer Background Evaluation Process for Correctional Officers

In County of Santa Clara (July 25, 2013) PERB Dec. No. 2321-M, the Public Employment Relations Board ruled a background evaluation process for transitioning correctional officers to correctional deputies with peace officer status is a mandatory subject of bargaining under most circumstances, overruling a contrary decision by PERB Office of General Counsel.

Santa Clara is one of the counties in California that employs non-peace officer correctional officers in county jails. In 2010, the Sheriff’s Office decided to transition to correctional deputies under Penal Code section 830.1(c) and had some discussions with the Santa Clara Correctional Peace Officers Association about the process for transitioning existing employees. Initially, the Sheriff’s Office claimed the process was voluntary and if officers wanted to stay as correctional officers they would be grandfathered in.

But then, the Sheriff’s Office told officers if they did not apply to be peace officers they would be denied promotions, lose assignments, and could lose their jobs. When the union would not concede on some of the details of the process, the Sheriff’s Office imposed, claiming they did not have to meet and confer with the union or go through impasse procedures.

PERB rejected the Sheriff’s Office’s claims. PERB ruled how the Sheriff’s Office would conduct the background evaluation process for becoming a peace officer was a mandatory subject of bargaining. PERB explained the evaluation process was different than a typical background process because it was for current employees.

PERB also made new law, distinguishing an earlier case about background checks. In Sutter County In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority (2007) PERB Dec. No. 1900-M, PERB said some background checks are not subject to meet and confer. In this case, PERB explained key elements of how to do a peace officer background process are discretionary. PERB also found the correctional officers already had a comprehensive background evaluation when they were first hired and that jails were fundamentally different than people’s homes.

Therefore, PERB ruled “that where an employer imposes on employees, who have already undergone a background evaluation as a condition of employment, a further such evaluation as a condition of continued assignment to the employee’s present position, the employer’s decision [is] within the scope of representation under the MMBA."

Mastagni attorney Jeffrey R. A. Edwards represented the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association in the matter.