PERB ruling confirms public employees will not lose wages when participating in collective bargaining negotiations

In County of Riverside (2013) PERB Decision No. 2307-M, the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) held that a public agency employer may not reduce employees’ compensation or other benefits when that employee is participating in formal negotiations under the Meyers Milias Brown Act (“MMBA”).  Section 3505.3 of the MMBA provides that “public agencies shall allow a reasonable number of public agency employee representatives of recognized employee organizations reasonable time off without loss of compensation or other benefits when formally meeting and conferring with representatives of the public agency on matters if it’s in the scope of representation.”

PERB held that the number of representatives to be released and the amount of released time to be provided is measured in terms of reasonableness, however, the determination of compensation or other benefits is not.  The meaning of the word “loss” in MMBA section 3505.3 is measured against the amount of pay the employee would have earned if the employee had not been engaged in collective bargaining negotiations.

PERB also held that regardless of the timing of formal negotiations, if an employee is entitled to be paid shift differentials or special pay premiums for working his/her regularly scheduled shift, the employee is entitled to the same pay for time spent in formal negotiations on approved Union release time.  Otherwise, the employee would suffer a loss of compensation or other benefits from participating in collective bargaining.  Thus, employees released from working on the graveyard shift, in order to get enough rest to participate in collective bargaining on the day shift, should not suffer any reduction in wages even though the bargaining occurs on the day shift.  PERB also held that the wage guarantee under Section 3505.3 is a statutory guarantee and is not negotiable.

Another aspect of PERB’s decision in County of Riverside, No. 2307-M, that may help Union advocates is further clarification of the ways that an amended unfair practice charge can relate back to the initial charge.  For more information on this or other matters, contact your labor law counsel.

By Alan Crowley

Legal Developments