Union Entitled To Retirement Benefit Information For Part-Time Community College Faculty

In a victory for public sector Unions, junior colleges must cough up more information about retirement benefits.  The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has held that the Santa Monica Community College District violated the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) by refusing to provide the faculty Union with list of part-time faculty who did not have required retirement election forms in their personnel file.  The parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) required the District to provide part-time faculty with information about options for enrolling in retirement programs.  The California Education Code required the District to maintain employee forms acknowledging that they may elect membership in a Defined Benefit Program at any time while employed. 

During an internal audit, the District discovered that some part-time faculty did not have the required California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) election form in their personnel files.  The District subsequently contacted CaISTRS, which initiated an audit. 

The District then sent a letter to some of the part-time faculty stating that the employees had not completed a CalSTRS Retirement System Election Form declining membership in the CalSTRS Defined Benefit Program.  Some of those part-time faculty informed their Union that when they were hired, they were not informed of the option to enroll in the CalSTRS defined benefit plan. 

The Union requested a list of employees who had received the letters, which the District provided.  When the Union sent a follow-up request to the District for an updated list of the part time faculty who did not have a CalSTRS Retirement System Election Form in their file, the District refused on the grounds that the list was protected by the attorney-client and attorney work product privileges. 

PERB held that the information requested by the Union was related to an employee’s option to select retirement plans set forth in the parties’ CBA.  Since retirement benefits for current employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining, the requested information was relevant and necessary to the Union’s representation of its members.  PERB held that the District had not demonstrated how the release of names would infringe on the employees’ privacy rights.  PERB also held that the District had waived any attorney-client or attorney work product privilege when it released the initial list of names to the Union. 

By Russell Naymark

Legal Developments