California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) Releases Annual Report
by David G. Ritchie on November 21, 2014
posted in Employment Law,
The California Public Employment Relations Board recently released their annual report for 2013-14. PERB is the regulatory agency with authority over public sector labor and employment relations within the State of California, including those of Cities, Counties and Special Districts forming a significant portion of our clients.
Some interesting and informative statistics are contained in each annual report regarding filings with PERB and PERB decisions.
Total Unfair Practice Charge Filings are up over those in 2012-13 by nearly 40%, most notably charges filed in the Sacramento Region Office increasing from 148 to 371. Other offices saw more modest increases year-over year. Of those, MMBA filings increased from 265 to 303. Skewing the overall increases were 173 new filings under HEERA relating to University of California Agency Fee Disputes. If the burst of HEERA filings are not considered, it appears PERB has seen a continuation of modest increases in ULP filings since 2010/11 (744) after one year of low numbers in 2013-13, but not yet nearing the high of 1012 from 2005-2006.
Representation Case activity has remained roughly constant year-over-year with 350. This is above the 4-year average of 305, however increases in the past two years appear significantly attributable to AB 646 that created MMBA Fact-finding for local government agencies starting in 2013. Those fact-finding requests have decreased from 81 to 65 and the number of fact-finding requests approved has shrunk from 62 to 53. Note: the report indicates that the number of fact-finding requests has increased slightly year-over-year, but I believe that to be an error in the report and I’ve requested clarification from PERB on whether the report is accurate in that regard.
Requests for injunctive relief increased from 17 to 25, the highest number since 2007-2008. Of those requests 22 were either denied or withdrawn, and only one was granted in full (only one was granted in 2012-13 as well). Grants of injunctive relief continue to be a rare event.
Administrative case decisions issued eclipsed the number of hearings, representing a clearing of some of the backlog of pending decisions post-hearing. This backlog grew in 2010 when the assigned caseload increased by 44% but the number of ALJ’s assigned remained fixed. If the caseloads continue at current levels through 2014-15 the backlog could be reduced or eliminated and processing times for cases could thereafter come down.
For municipalities with represented bargaining units, these statistics indicate the following for the upcoming year:
- Efforts toward obtaining injunctive relief from PERB are rarely successful and are likely better dealt with at Superior Court rather than administratively as part of Labor Relations.
- While MMBA fact-finding has cooled, there are insufficient years of data to determine what the typical filing volume will be over the long term. This, combined with the large number of short MOU terms and extensions over the past several years means that reliable predictions about whether fact-finding is likely at impasse are difficult to make. Agencies should consider that continuation of shorter-term “status quo” MOU’s and extensions would tend to increase the exposure to fact-finding while financial pressure to grant increases in compensation mounts following the recession years 2009-2013. Agencies should adjust the planning for future negotiations and begin preparations between 180 and 150 days prior to the anticipated start date of negotiations.
- Case processing times for unfair practice charges should not be expected to shrink in the coming year. That means that in the event a charge is filed, Agencies should not expect a decision on whether this results in a complaint from PERB for several months after the filing date. This, of course does not alleviate the requirement that once notified of a charge, clients should notify counsel as soon as possible, sign appropriate designation of representative forms, and consider whether to provide information responsive to the charge within the applicable time period and prior to a complaint issuing.
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