City Not Required To Bargain Over Decision To Lay Off Employees; Duty To Bargain, However, Extends to the Implementation of the Lay Off Decision

The California Supreme Court has confirmed that, in general, a city does not have to negotiate with a labor union over the decision to lay off employees. However, the court also made clear that the city does have to negotiate over the impacts of its decision.

On a related question, the court also confirmed that if the Public Employment Relation Board refuses to issue an Unfair Practice Complaint in a given case, that decision may be subject to judicial review, but only in very narrow circumstances.

The case arose under the Meyers Milias Brown Act (the so-called MMBA, Cal. Gov. Code §§ 3500, et seq.) after the cash-strapped City of Ricmond decided to cut back on its fire department. The court drew on National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 160) case law, as well as on past California decisions.  The court noted that judicial review of PERB’s refusal to issue an Unfair Practice Complaint can be reviewed if (1) there is a colorable claim that the decision conflicts with a party’s constitutional rights; (2) exceeds a specific grant of authority, or (3) is based on an erroneous construction of an applicable statute.

The case is International Fire Fighters v. PERB. A copy is attached for your convenience.

At Slote, Links & Boreman, LLP, we regularly advise both management and labor on key workplace issues. Feel free to call us if you have a question in this important area of the law.

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