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1400.02000 – Employer Responsibility

Although PERB generally follows common law principles of agency, it, like the NLRB and ALRB, routinely applies these principles with reference to the broad, remedial purposes of the statutes it administers rather that by strict application of concepts governing an employer’s responsibility to third parties for the acts of its employees. Given the extent to which the Mayor, his staff, and other City officials used City resources and the prestige of their offices to promote a ballot measure to alter employee pension benefits, making liability dependent on whether the City Council had expressly authorized its statutory agent in collective bargaining matters to pursue the ballot measure would allow the City to use its local initiative power to undermine the principle of bilateral negotiations required by the MMBA. PERB rejected defense that Mayor and other City officials were acting as private citizens when they and their staff appeared at press conferences and other public events, used City staff, e-mail accounts, websites and other City resources, as well as the prestige of their City offices to publicize and solicit support for a ballot initiative aimed at altering the pension benefits of City employees. Board affirmed ALJ’s finding that the Mayor acted as the statutory agent of the City in announcing and supporting ballot measure to change City policy regarding employee pension benefits and in refusing to bargain with the Unions over this change in policy. Board’s finding that Mayor was acting with actual authority on behalf of the City did not turn on whether the City had authorized the specific acts undertaken by the Mayor as its bargaining representative, but whether the Mayor was acting within the scope of his authority, including the degree of discretion conferred on him by the City Charter to further the City’s interests. Under PERB’s Inglewood test, the party asserting an agency relationship by way of apparent authority has the burden of proving that theory by competent and admissible but not necessarily direct evidence. Because the test is an objective one whose inquiry is what employees would reasonably believe under the circumstances, what any particular employee subjectively believed is not determinative.