Friday, October 14, 2016

PERB Upholds Employer Ability to Avoid Meet and Confer Obligations Over Minor And informal Policy Changes.

In SEIU Local 1021 v. County of San Joaquin, PERB found that in order to establish past practice, a party must show that both the Union and the Employer knew of an agreed to the practice. It is not enough to show that the practice went on without correction by management for several years.

In Local 1012, the SEIU alleged that the County had unilaterally eliminated a past practice of allowing District Attorney’s Office employees to have flexible schedules to help employees with childcare responsibilities. PERB noted that while employees had been permitted to come in late and make up time during lunch, management did not have any knowledge of the practice and never authorized it. A senior clerical worker (non-management) had apparently authorized the practice without expressly discussing it with management first. While management may have become aware of the practice, they never authorized it and thus it could not be considered a past practice. This allowed management to lawfully eliminate the flexible scheduling.

This case sets a troubling precedent that allows management to get away with eliminating or changing workplace policies informally implemented by managers by allowing them to claim that they never explicitly authorized it, even if they were aware of it. This creates a backdoor way for less scrupulous employers to implement unpopular policies or eliminate employee-friendly policies by doing so on an informal basis and thus, avoiding the duty to bargain over such changes.

In Montebello City Employees Assn. v. City of Montebello, PERB ruled that a union failed to prove an unfair labor practice where a unilateral change of policy changing the job duties of two employees.  PERB also clarified that the proper test for an alleged unilateral change of policy is a five element test for per se violations of the duty to bargain, not a totality of the circumstances test.

The Union brought an unfair practice charge against the city alleging that they unilaterally changed the duties of clerical assistants effectively requiring that they do additional work without a change in classification or pay. PERB found that the change was at most an isolated departure from the status quo with no generalized effect or continuing impact on the terms and conditions of employment. Additionally, the city later stripped the affected employees of the extra duties when it could not get a reclassification approved for budgetary reasons. Thus there was no continuing impact on the terms and conditions of employment except for one or two isolated cases where the employees still had increased duties.