GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES; CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT/ INTERPRETATION – General Principles of Contract Interpretation
Single Topic for Decision 2173M
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1404.03000 – General Principles of Contract Interpretation
Although PERB does not have jurisdiction to resolve pure contract disputes, it may interpret contract language if necessary to do so to decide an unfair practice charge case. Traditional rules of contract law guide the Board's interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. A contract must be interpreted so as to give effect to the mutual intention of the parties as it existed at the time of contracting, so far as the same is ascertainable and lawful. Where contractual language is clear and unambiguous, it is unnecessary to go beyond the plain language of the contract itself to ascertain its meaning. Where the contract language is silent or ambiguous, the policy may be ascertained by examining past practice or bargaining history. Where contract language was ambiguous and review of extrinsic evidence failed to support charging party’s interpretation, MOU did not establish a written agreement to link retiree health insurance benefits to current bargaining unit employees.