Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Public Employee Unions Entitled to Reasonable Leaves of Absence to Serve As Union Stewards or Officers

Starting January 1st 2019, Section 3558.8 of the California Government Code goes into effect.   This much needed law ensures that public employees are able to take a leave of absence in order to represent their union without losing their job or benefits during time performing union duties.

Often referred to as “loss time,” this leave allows employees the ability to perform union duties without loss of pay or other employment benefits. Under the new law, a public employer is required to grant employees, after meeting-and-conferring, reasonable leaves of absence in order for those employees to serve as stewards or officers of their exclusive representative.  

It is important to note, the union must reimburses the employer for the costs of the employee’s salary and benefits while employers are permitted to utilize temporary employees to fill a union representative’s position while they are absent.

Other key elements of the new law include:

·         Reasonable Leave: Section 3558.8 requires that the public employer grant a “reasonable time.” Although “reasonable time” is not defined, the new law states that leave may be granted on a full-time, part-time, periodic, or intermittent basis.

·         Right to Reinstatement: At the conclusion of the leave, the employee is entitled to be reinstated to the same position and work location held prior to the leave. If that is unfeasible, the employee must be given a substantially similar position without loss of seniority, rank, or classification.

·         Right to Retirement Contributions: During any leave of absence, the public employer is required to continue paying the employee’s salary AND any contributions to the employee’s retirement fund under the applicable labor agreement.

Finally, the new law permits any union to reopen “negotiations to reach a mutual agreement concerning the grant of leave.”